United States District Judge Nancy Edmunds nullified efforts by imprisoned Highwaymen Motorcycle Club member Gary (Junior) Ball to get a new trial last week, ruling the uncovering of a co-defendant’s prior work as an informant wasn’t enough grounds to assume that co-defendant had worked with federal authorities to subvert the overall defense of the case.

Ball, 52, was one of close to 100 Highwaymen in Detroit, Michigan indicted for racketeering, narcotics and murder-for-hire schemes in 2007. He was convicted at a jury trial in December 2010 and sentenced to 30 years behind bars. While on the street, Ball ran a multi-state stolen-bike racket and served as a liaison for the club to the Motor City’s Italian mafia.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Ball began researching his case from his prison cell in the years following his conviction and found out that his co-defendant, Aref (Scarface Steve) Nagi, a college-educated former club vice president and one-time sergeant-at-arms, had been used as an informant for the Troy, Michigan Police Department and the Detroit office of the DEA in the early 1990s. The 53-year old Nagi, also convicted in the case, isn’t eligible for parole until 2024.

Ball’s attorneys argued to Judge Edmonds that if he had known of Nagi’s status as a snitch, he would have never allowed Nagi’s attorney, James Thomas, to be the defense team’s spokesman in the courtroom and that it was possible that Nagi was feeding the prosecution information on defense team strategy sessions. Thomas, a high-powered Detroit attorney, denies that Nagi was an informant and there was any wrongdoing on his part as defense team leader in the case in an affidavit he signed in the fall of 2016.

The Ball appeal delved into his own counsel at trial as well, questioning if his lawyer, Larry Shulman, compromised himself by handling plea negotiations for another co-defendant of his without informing him of the situation. Alabama attorney David Schoen represents Ball for his appeal process.

According to what Ball unearthed in his researching quest, Nagi set up a drug deal for Troy cops and the DEA in a Troy shopping mall parking lot in 1992. Despite Thomas’ rebuke of the assertion that Nagi ever worked for the government, the U.S. Attorney’s Office admits Nagi was an informant for federal and local law enforcement in the past, but says it played no role in the 2010 trial or overall prosecution of the case.

In a DEA and ATF raid of Nagi’s suburban Sterling Heights, Michigan residence in 2006, agents found a cache over 30 firearms. Wiretaps of his cellular and home phones displayed his hair-trigger temper and penchant for violence. On one call with another Highwaymen, Nagi bragged of stabbing and physically assaulting an employee of his at a Mexican restaurant he owned that he had caught stealing, finally leaving the man badly beaten and bleeding in a trash bin in the alley.

The Highwaymen are the state of Michigan’s largest biker gang, founded in Detroit in 1954 by Elburn (Big Max) Burns. The club maintains chapters in Indiana, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, New York and New Jersey. There are eight chapters in Michigan alone – Downtown Detroit, Eastside Detroit, Westside Detroit, Northwest Detroit, Downriver, Ann Arbor, Lansing and Monroe. The club’s Godfather Leonard (Big Daddy) Moore and its former national president Joseph (Little Joe Whiting) went down in the 2007 indictment out of Detroit too and both have filed similar appeal briefs to the one Ball just had tossed.

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