Eddie David Cox, the “brains” behind the Black Mafia was released from prison early because of health issues that made him vulnerable to COVID-19, court documents show.

A federal judge in mid-June granted Cox, whose gang briefly controlled virtually all of the drug trafficking and much of the violence and crime on Kansas City’s East Side, a compassionate release from his life sentence after serving 32 years.

Cox, 86, was freed on Thursday.

In his motion to get his sentenced reduced to time served, Cox contended he has life-threatening medical issues which make him “very vulnerable” to COVID-19.

“With the new strains of the virus in the United States which is spreading very rapidly, there is very real possibility the defendant will be subjected to one of the strains, and if so, it would be a death sentence in light of his present medical condition,” a court document seeking his release said.

COVID in prisons

Only 49% of all Federal Bureau of Prison staff have been vaccinated despite the vaccine being offered to them. Prison staff transmits the virus into the the prison.

Cox has a variety of medical issues relating the aging, including stage three kidney disease among others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified those with chronic kidney disease as being at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Cox contended in his motion that others have had their sentences reduced because of chronic kidney disease.

In support of his release, Cox cited his community service with helping inmates by performing legal research over the years and mitigating conflicts between inmate factions, according to court documents.

He also said he had a clear conduct record for over three decades. He said he accepts full responsibility for his past actions and has undergone rehabilitation.

“The defendant is not the same person who stood before the Court in 1990 for sentencing,” according to court documents. “The defendant has completely mellowed with age and knowledge. It is apparent the 32 years defendant has spent in prison has served its intended punitive and rehabilitated purposes.”

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Because of his age and medical condition, Cox maintains that he does not pose a threat to anyone or the community at large.

In the motion, Cox said he has family support and will live with a relative in Kansas. He will work from home performing legal research for a law firm out of Rutland, Vermont. He will be eligible for Medicare upon his release and has a book on Federal Standards of Review that he compiled over the years and will publish to the internet.

Government opposed

Federal prosecutors opposed his motion for compassionate saying while it was sensitive to the issues raised by COX, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has taken actions to mitigate the danger, including administrating vaccines to inmates and staff as quickly as possible.

In its motion, the government contends that Cox’s medical records confirms that he had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and because of that, he could not establish an extraordinary and compelling reason for release based on a possible infection. His medical records also show that he had contracted COVID-19 and apparently recovered without significant consequences.

The government contended that Cox remains a danger to the community. In its motion, the government cited Cox’s felony convictions from 1954 to 1984, including assault, kidnapping, bank robbery and conspiracy to violate narcotic laws.

‘Cold-blooded killer’

Cox gained notoriety in Kansas City as a leader of what the Justice Department dubbed the “Black Mafia” of the East Side.

Cox, who is white, was named as one of three leaders of the outfit, which was fueled by drug trade, prostitution and loan sharking. He was considered the mastermind of the criminal enterprise by federal authorities.

The Black Mafia controlled the East Side between early 1969 until the mid-1970s. The federal government described Cox at the time as a “cold-blooded killer” accused of taking part in at least 17 murders in the Kansas City area. He was also accused of being involved in the killing of a federal narcotics agent in Chicago.

In 1990, a jury found him guilty after being charged with a dozen felonies, including conspiracy to distributing cocaine and impersonating a federal agent. He had pretended to be with the Drug Enforcement Agency — even carried a badge, a gun and drove a red Ford Crown Victoria — so he could shake down drug dealers, according to court documents.

His resulting sentence — 80 1/2 years in prison — was basically life in prison.

Long described as a cunning and highly intelligent main, Cox became known as one of the greatest jailhouse lawyers.