‘Godfather of Grass’ seeks prison release over virus concern

Associated Press

Lisbon, Ohio – The “Godfather of Grass,” who was sentenced for his role in a large marijuana operation after eight years on the run, has asked a judge to release him from a federal prison in Ohio that has seen nine coronavirus deaths.

John Robert “Johnny” Boone vouched for his release on the grounds that he is 76, in poor health and has served most of his 57-month prison sentence, The Courier Journal reported Thursday. Elmer George, his lawyer, added Boone has a history of illnesses and called his continued imprisonment life-threatening.

In this Nov. 17, 2010 photo, former mayor of Raywick, Ky., Charlie Bickett talks about his friend, fugitive marijuana farmer John Robert Boone in Raywick, Ky.

About 137 inmates and eight prison employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus at the Federal Correctional Institution at Elkton, where Boone is serving out his prison sentence. Another 63 inmates and 44 prison employees have recovered after testing positive for the virus, the Courier Journal reported.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has so far released only five of the 837 Elkton inmates identified as medically vulnerable to home confinement, a move that drew rebuke from a federal judge in Cleveland this week. The American Civil Liberties Union has also sued the Bureau of Prisons over the issue.

Boone, who had called himself “Charles Grass,” fled to Canada after a 2008 indictment on federal drug charges in Kentucky and spent eight years on the loose until his capture in late 2016. He was sentenced in 2018 after pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to possess, grow and distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants at an operation near Springfield, Kentucky.

Boone was convicted in the 1980s and spent a decade in prison for what prosecutors called a massive marijuana syndicate. They said he was head of a multistate marijuana operation known as the “Cornbread Mafia,” which had 29 farms in several states.

He was featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” spurring a Facebook page called Run, Johnny, Run.