DETROIT (WWJ) – Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for an alleged Detroit gang member, accused of committing multiple murders and distributing illegal drugs.
While Michigan does not have the death penalty, it can be sought in federal cases. Still, it’s rare — with the only conviction in the last 70 years the case of Marvin Gabrion, found guilty of murdering a woman whose body was found in the Manistee National Forest, which is federal land.
Now federal court documents filed Monday show U.S. Attorney Matther Schneider is seeking a death sentence for 31-year-old Billy Arnold of the Seven Mile Bloods, a street gang prosecutors say engages in the trafficking of prescription pills.
Arnold, who has previous convictions for attempted murder and gun charges, was indicted in March of 2016, along with six other alleged gang members, for RICO conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, attempted murder in aid of racketeering and other crimes.
Prosecutors say Arnold, also known as “B-Man,” “Berinzo” and “Killa,” carried out multiple killings, sold opioids, and “has shown no remorse.”
Speaking to WWJ’s Sandra McNeill, former federal prosecutor Peter Henning said that, although this is uncommon, he’s not too surprised to see the Justice Department taking a harder line on gangs — especially amid the nation’s opioid crisis.
“The current justice department under Attorney General (Jeff) Sessions has announced that they’re going to be much more aggressive and seek higher punishments — and that would include seeking the death penalty in the cases that they identify as appropriate,” Henning told WWJ’s Sandra McNeill.
“If it’s going to be targeting certain offenses — for example, opioid distribution — then it is a big deal, because it shows that the justice department is using its most potent weapon, at least as far as punishment is concerned, to go after people who are distributing opioids,” Henning said.
“They are going to use the death penalty as a means to send a message out that they are taking opioid distribution very seriously, and tracing the effects of it. That it isn’t just that you sell it; that what you have sold can lead to death.”
Arnold has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Meanwhile, Gabrion — whose conviction and death sentence were upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 2013 — remains on death row.