August 1, 2020 – Superfly era Detroit gangland figure Robert (Lefty) Partee, one of the oldest inmates in the Michigan Department of Corrections and most respected names on the streets of the Motor City even to this day despite having spent for the last four decades behind bars, is filing a motion for compassionate release. The 80-year old Lefty Partee penned the brief himself and is requesting a medical discharge from his first-degree murder sentence based on a respiratory illness predisposing him to the COVID-19 virus.
In the 1970s, Partee was a feared enforcer for crime lord Francis (Big Frank Nitti) Usher, his first cousin and boss of Detroit’s Black mob, known as the Murder Row crew. He was convicted for being one of the shooters in the famous 1979 Michigan Federated Democratic Club Massacre, a triple murder where the victims were beheaded amidst internal strife in Big Frank Nitti’s organization.
Usher was found guilty for playing a role in the massacre at his first trial, but acquitted in a 1994 retrial after having the conviction tossed on appeal. The 78-year old Big Frank Nitti, nicknamed by Italian mobsters in Detroit as a reference to “Scarface Al” Capone’s underboss, Frank (The Enforcer) Nitti in Chicago during Prohibition and a memorable character in the 1960s television show The Untouchables, died of a massive stroke this week.
Backed and financed by Detroit’s Tocco-Zerilli crime family, Usher’s Murder Row gang controlled drugs, gambling, prostitution and extortion in several African-American neighborhoods across the city. Usher was mentored in the rackets by the Giacalone brothers (Detroit mob street bosses “Tony Jack” & “Billy Jack”, who gave him his start) and the Giacalone crew used Usher and Murder Row for muscle work.
According to FBI documents, on the afternoon of July 18, 1979, Murder Row street boss Adolph (Doc Holliday) Powell summoned Usher and two of his lieutenants, William (Little Dirty) McJoy and William (The Straw Hat) Jackson, to Powell’s headquarters at the Michigan Federated Democratic Social Club in the midtown section of Detroit for a sit down. Usher’s second-in-command, James (Cool Cat) Elliott had just been locked up so his girlfriend, Joann Clark, attended the meeting in his stead.
In reality, it was an ambush. Doc Holliday was seizing power in the gang. Powell took Usher’s gun and ordered McJoy, Jackson and Clark, executed, per court testimony. Their bodies were dismembered by a giddy, drunken and cigar-chomping Powell, per police records, after Usher was forced to watch his inner circle and his best friend’s girl gunned down in cold blood.
Partee and his partner-in-crime, the equally fabled street legend James (Jimmy Red) Freeman, were accused of being the triggermen in the hit. Powell and Freeman were acquitted in the case, while Partee was found guilty.
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