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Black Mafia Family leader 'Big Meech' loses latest bid to leave prison

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

A federal appeals panel Thursday rejected the latest attempt from convicted Black Mafia Family cocaine kingpin Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory to leave federal prison 10 years early amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson did not misapply the law or rely on erroneous facts in refusing last year to grant compassionate release to Flenory during the pandemic, wrote the panel of three judges from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Black Mafia Family drug kingpin Demetrius "Big Meech" on the cover of The JUICE Magazine, which he co-owned.

Flenory, 52, has drawn support from celebrities, politicians and the broader public while serving a 30-year sentence for running one of the largest drug trafficking and money laundering rings in Detroit history. But federal prosecutors say he remains a danger to the community and does not suffer from any COVID-19 risk factors.

“With great respect to these capable jurists who I admire, this opinion completely missed the mark," Flenory's lawyer, Wade Fink, wrote in a text message to The Detroit News.

"We pleaded with the court to listen to the medical experts who testified that my client is in serious danger of dying from COVID-19. But the experts were ignored again. And I attribute much of that to the shameful behavior of certain prosecutors in this case, who have made my client into a box office-type monster.”  

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The native of southwest Detroit headed a national drug ring with brother Terry Flenory that reaped $270 million in profits, employed more than 500 people and distributed thousands of kilograms of cocaine. The drug ring operated in cities in 11 states, including Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Birmingham, Alabama. 

The Atlanta hub alone distributed 2,500 kilos each month.

Terry Flenory

Terry Flenory was released on home confinement last year as part of a broader effort by officials to stem the spread of COVID-19 that, according to federal prison data, has killed at least 224 inmates and staff, and infected almost 53,000.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents toppled the cocaine empire in 2005 by arresting the brothers along with more than 100 co-conspirators. Investigators seized $21 million worth of assets, including cash; jewelry; 13 homes in Metro Detroit, Georgia and Los Angeles; and three dozen vehicles, including a Lincoln limousine.

Demetrius Flenory laundered money through his rap label and promotions business, BMF Entertainment, and co-owned JUICE Magazine. BMF Entertainment takes credit for helping launch the career of the rapper Jeezy.

The Black Mafia Family drug ring hauled money and cocaine in custom-built stretch limousines.

Flenory proposed living with relatives either in Florida or Michigan.

Prosecutors opposed releasing Demetrius Flenory, saying he did not deserve the same treatment as Terry Flenory.

Demetrius Flenory has a checkered disciplinary record. He has spent time in solitary confinement, illegally possessed a cell phone and a small piece of a razor blade while in prison and has used intoxicants, according to court records.

Cash seized during the Black Mafia Family investigation

Demetrius Flenory argued he is susceptible to COVID-19 due to his age and health problems, including hypertension and heart trouble.

He is a "brilliant and gentle father" who is ready to come home and "do right by his family and community," his lawyer said.

“I believe in Big Meech, and I won’t stop fighting for him, nor will I stop fighting to end what Sixth Circuit Judges (Karen Nelson) Moore and (Jane Branstetter) Stranch called a ‘drought of compassion’ for prisoners nationwide," Fink wrote.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews