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Judge issues rare clarification on why he granted COVID release for convicted murderer doing 2 life sentences

John Bass
Posted at 11:51 AM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 18:32:06-05

(WXYZ)  — Detroit Federal District Judge Arthur Tarnow today issued a rare clarification why he granted John Bass a COVID Compassionate release late last month after Bass served 22 years in prison on two life convictions without parole.

The U. S. Attorney in Detroit appealed to the 6th Circuit Court and that court on Friday night stayed the release. Bass was taken back into custody Saturday morning.

The U. S. Attorney had written in the appeal:

"John Bass is a convicted murderer who received two concurrent life sentences. During his decade-long leadership over a multi-state drug organization, Bass ordered the killing of his own brother. Then, to cover up that murder, Bass and his accomplices shot the hitman to death and burned the body. Bass also shot and set on fire at least one other victim—and tortured him with a hot poker."

Judge Tarnow wrote in his clarification today:

"Courts have 'wide latitude' to exercise discretion in determining extraordinary and compassionate reasons to grant a compassionate release."

The Judge also wrote several U. S. Attorneys have worked on this case but he, the Judge, has been with it from the beginning:

"This Court stands alone with the institutional memory of John Bass, not just as a case, but as a person.
This Court presided over Bass’s three-week trial, during which witness after witness recounted his horrifying crimes. This Court sentenced Bass to two concurrent life terms upon the jury’s verdict. This Court denied Bass’s requests for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. This Court, considering the severity of Bass’s crimes, believed even at the compassionate release hearing that he had 'earned' his original sentence.

And this Court, using its unique perspective, carefully evaluated and ultimately decided that Bass had presented extraordinary and compelling reasons to be released.

As this Court often reminds the attorneys who appear before it in compassionate release hearings, its goal in proceeding through the § 3553(a) analysis is to evaluate defendants, not as they were at the time of their original sentencing, but as they are now."

In Judge Tarnow’s order granting release he cited Bass was a prison success story, that Bass completed a GED high school education and was trained to become a life coach. The Judge also noted that Bass weighed 322 pounds and was a high risk of contracting COVID-19 in prison in Pennsylvania where 46% of inmates had contracted it.

Judge Tarnow said in his clarification that 42 people in fear of their lives have asked him for a COVID Compassionate Release and that he has granted 32, denied two and eight are pending.

The U. S. Attorney has until February 16 to file a brief with the Court of Appeals. Then the defense attorney can reply. The Court of Appeals will ultimately decide if Bass remains locked up or can be released.

Read the full clarification below:

https://www.scribd.com/document/493788652/Bass-Clarification#from_embed" style="text-decoration: underline;" >Bass Clarification by https://www.scribd.com/user/71114583/WXYZ-TV-Channel-7-Detroit#from_embed" style="text-decoration: underline;" >WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd