Detroit — A federal judge Tuesday ordered the release of the “godfather” of the Highwaymen Motorcycle Club, a violent gang whose members were blamed for wreaking havoc in southwest Detroit by dealing drugs, stealing motorcycles and committing gun crimes
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds ordered Leonard “Dad” Moore, 72, of Lincoln Park be released on home confinement from a federal prison in Pennsylvania despite only serving about half of a 20-year sentence. Moore requested release on compassionate grounds, citing his age and a list of health problems that made him susceptible to COVID-19.
Moore was the highest-ranking leader of what prosecutors called Detroit’s largest and most violent motorcycle club. The club had about 100 members and several chapters across southeast Michigan until a government crackdown 14 years ago led to dozens of convictions under federal racketeering laws.
He was sentenced initially to life in prison, later reduced to 20 years. Moore sought compassionate release in July, citing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
“Although the sentence imposed on (Moore) was just, the court holds that the threat posed by COVID-19, in light of defendant’s advanced age and his underlying health conditions, constitutes an extraordinary and compelling reason to modify his sentence,” Edmunds wrote. “Defendant is clearly among those persons most at risk.”
Moore’s release coincides with a broad effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 within the federal prison system. More than 17,620 inmates have tested positive nationwide and prison officials have placed 7,709 inmates on home confinement.
Moore is not allowed to leave his home except for medical and legal appointments, and will be subjected to electronic location monitoring.
“We are obviously quite pleased with the court’s ruling, given Mr. Moore’s significant health issues and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moore’s lawyer Robert Higbee wrote in an email to The Detroit News. “We hope he will be released home to his family as expeditiously as possible.”
Moore is still a dangerous man with a long criminal record, prosecutors said.
He was sentenced to prison in 1977 after being convicted of placing a bomb at a motorcycle club that detonated and an innocent bystander was killed after being struck by debris, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Moran wrote while urging Edmunds to keep Moore in prison.
His crimes hurt southwest Detroit, the prosecutor wrote.
“His release from prison would be an imminent threat to the calm and peace of those same neighborhoods,” Moran wrote. “Moore is a uniquely dangerous individual.”
Moore controlled the motorcycle club’s criminal conduct, including assault, arson, obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, conspiracy to commit murder and drug trafficking, the prosecutor wrote.
“Moore would not have to be ‘on the street’ to be a danger to the community,” Moran wrote. “Simply being in the community is enough.”