Profile: Aryan Brotherhood Gang
Jury Is Told of Ruthless Aryan Gang: March 15, 2006
As capital trial begins, prosecutor lays out a strategy that seeks to dismantle the prison group. Four alleged leaders are accused.
By Christopher Goffard and William Lobdell / Times Staff Writers
Outlining a two-decade span of prison killings, a federal prosecutor Tuesday described the Aryan Brotherhood as a small but ruthlessly committed prison gang that used murder to control vast inmate populations and enforce a rigid internal code.
The Brotherhood killed informers and rivals and the disrespectful, the prosecutor said, plus its own members who engaged in openly homosexual conduct or violated other gang codes. They killed by garrote and bludgeon and prison-made knife, he said, and ran a prison empire by writing letters in disappearing ink made from citrus juice or urine and smuggling messages from their cells in mop handles and peanut shells.
Although there are just 100 or so members, they are "particularly violent, disciplined, fearless, and committed to controlling and dominating the prison population" through terror, prosecutor Michael Emmick told jurors in his opening statement in federal court in Santa Ana, where four alleged leaders of the gang are being tried on racketeering charges.
The case, which is being heard under tight security and which could last most of this year, is part of one of the largest capital cases in U.S. history. It is designed to lop the head off a prison gang that authorities say began in San Quentin in the 1960s, as a way for white inmates to protect themselves against blacks, and has since grown into a wide-ranging criminal enterprise that includes drug-trafficking, extortion and gambling.
As part of the gang code, he said, members were expected to share drugs with one another, stay in physical shape, avenge attacks on fellow members, keep homosexual encounters discreet, and — above all — refuse to cooperate with authorities.
"The primary rule is never snitch, ever," the prosecutor said.
The government, however, said it had managed to enlist dozens of informers to make its case against Barry "The Baron" Mills, T.D. "The Hulk" Bingham, Edgar "The Snail" Hevle and Christopher O. Gibson, all accused of taking part in murder and attempted murder as gang leaders.
H. Dean Steward, Mills' defense attorney, told jurors the government's case rested on the lies and fabrications of informers who were seeking personal gain, including payment of $8,000 in one instance, reduced sentences, better prison housing and small prison perks, like a bag of coffee or new shoes.
"This entire case is about these rats helping themselves," Steward said.
Steward argued that many of the government's witnesses had been housed together at a federal penitentiary in Colorado, a "snitch school" where they cobbled together their stories. He said it was absurd that the small Aryan Brotherhood could try to control "thousands and thousands of inmates." The litany of killings and other crimes, he said, was actually a function of the "convict's code" and not organized gang activity.
The prosecutor told jurors the gang's code was "blood in, blood out," meaning someone had to shed someone's blood to gain membership and could leave only by dying. Hinting at the underworld lexicon that will be employed at trial, he said the phrase "in the hat" referred to someone condemned to die, while "rocking someone to sleep" referred to the practice of inducing a false sense of security in a target, the easier to kill him.
He said the gang was extremely selective in membership, picking inmates who were violent, trustworthy and willing to kill on command. He said the Brotherhood was characterized by "its fearlessness in its violence," at times killing in full view of other inmates and guards. Often tattooed with shamrocks or Nazi emblems, members rarely called themselves the Aryan Brotherhood, referring to themselves instead as the Brand, the Rock or the Tip.
The prosecutor acknowledged that his witnesses had long, violent criminal histories, but said he would present them "warts and all."
Though the indictment contains 32 counts of murder and attempted murder, prosecutors said they would focus on 15 of those alleged crimes, starting with Mills' near-decapitation of an inmate in a bathroom stall in 1979 for cheating a fellow Brotherhood member on a drug deal.
In a 1989 case, a Brotherhood member named Arva Lee "Baby" Ray threw sugar packets and spat milk at Hevle in a prison cafeteria, causing a hush to fall over watching inmates. Hevle wanted Ray dead, the prosecutor said, but Mills and Bingham didn't authorize his killing until it emerged that Ray had openly taken a male lover. When an overdose of potent heroin failed to kill Ray, the prosecutor said, Brotherhood assassins strangled him.
In August 1997, the prosecutor said, the leadership sent a message in invisible ink to members at the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa. Rendered visible, the message read, "War with DC from TD," which the prosecutor said referred to Bingham authorizing a race war against black inmates. Within hours, knives had been distributed, and two black inmates had been fatally stabbed.
Defense attorneys said Bingham's note was merely a warning about an imminent race war, not an order to begin one.
In another case, the government alleges that Mafia don John Gotti paid the Brotherhood to kill an inmate he had scuffled with, though the man couldn't be found. Steward, the defense attorney, characterized the Gotti contract as "a totally made-up episode."
The case, which stems from a federal investigation begun in 1997, is being tried in federal court before U.S. District Judge David O. Carter. It is the first of three trials aimed at the Brotherhood leadership.
The second is scheduled to start this fall in Los Angeles. Of the 40 people indicted in all three trials, 20 have pleaded guilty; eight could face the death penalty if convicted, including Mills and Bingham; and eight others may still be charged with capital offenses.
The inmates, all of whom have bushy mustaches and eyeglasses, are being held at the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island and are transported to court under tight security. During trial, their legs are kept in chains that are anchored to the floor out of the jurors' sight.
As its first witness today, the government is expected to call Clifford Smith, a former high-ranking member of the gang who dropped out in 1984. The prosecutor said Smith had been targeted for death for refusing orders to kill the father of a friend.
In many instances, the inmate witnesses will also have their legs shackled while in the witness box.
Witness Describes Prison Gang Killings: Wed Mar 15, 2006
By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press Writer
SANTA ANA, Calif. - A former prison gang member told jurors he read Machiavelli and helped kill another inmate to impress gang leaders as testimony began Wednesday in the federal government's racketeering case against four reputed leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood.
Clifford Smith, a convicted murderer and Aryan Brotherhood member from 1978 to 1984, was the first witness in the case alleging a gang conspiracy to kill inmates who cheated on drug deals or snitched to prison authorities.
Wearing an eye patch and prison jumpsuit, Smith told the jury how his initiation included helping kill one gang enemy and stabbing another. The gang killed as a way to keep the power needed to conduct criminal activities involving drugs, extortion, fraud and identity theft, he said.
"Not everybody is willing to kill somebody," Smith said. "Some people are kind of squeamish about that stuff. I wanted to let them know I wasn't."
Authorities arrested 40 alleged Aryan Brotherhood members in 2002 after a six-year investigation. Nineteen struck plea bargains, one died and 16 others could face the death penalty in one of the largest capital punishment cases in U.S. history.
The four now on trial have been described as gang leaders: Barry "The Baron" Mills, 57; Tyler Davis "The Hulk" Bingham, 58; Edgar "The Snail" Hevle, 54, and Christopher Overton Gibson, 46. Mills and Bingham could face the death penalty; Hevle and Gibson could get life in prison.
The indictment alleges members of the white supremacist gang orchestrated a web of conspiracies, including starting a prison war against a black gang that resulted in at least two killings.
Prosecutors opened their case with a simple slide: "The Aryan Brotherhood: Blood in, Blood out."
The phrase — borrowed from the gang itself — means that inmates must kill to join the gang and can only leave when they die, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Emmick said in his opening statement.
Emmick said the gang even went after its own members to maintain discipline and inspire fear.
Defense attorney H. Dean Steward rejected Emmick's claims that the crimes were ordered by the gang's leadership. He said most crimes were committed by individuals who had personal conflicts.
"The murders and assaults happened," Steward told jurors. "There's no dispute. The question is 'Why?'"
Steward, who represents Mills, said nearly all of the government's case was based on 42 prison informants who had been coached and offered incentives including immunity, reduced sentences and cash payments.
During his testimony Wednesday, Smith described gang members communicating through "runners," usually female friends, who would visit them in prison and transport tiny messages, drugs and even small knives.
Sometimes they would use codes — "Lady from Bristol" meant pistol; "bottle stopper" stood for a guard or police officer; and "rough and smooth" was heroin, he said.
Smith said that when he was initiated to the gang, he was told to read a number of books, including works by Friedrich Nietzsche and Niccolo Machiavelli.
"That's the theme of most of these books: the individual, going outside the herd, being the alpha-male," he said.
Aryan Brotherhood & the Turner Diaries
Hate Crime in Jasper, Texas: June 10, 1998
The brutal and apparently racially motivated murder in Jasper, Texas of James Byrd, Jr., an African American, has grabbed the nation's conscience.
Two of the three men charged with the murder claimed membership in the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang active in jails and penitentiaries across the country. During the drive on backcountry roads with Mr. Byrd's body chained to the back of their pickup truck, one of the suspects reportedly said, "We're starting The Turner Diaries early." The Turner Diaries is a veritable handbook of hate, in which Blacks and Jews are targeted for murder by white supremacists.
The following is background on the Aryan Brotherhood and The Turner Diaries:
The Aryan Brotherhood got its start on the West Coast in the 1960s.
The Brotherhood, which has members in prisons throughout the United States, exhibits an intense hatred of Blacks and Jews, and reportedly engages in extortion, drug operations, prostitution, and violence in prisons.
Many Brotherhood members sport an identifying tattoo consisting of a swastika and the Nazi SS lightening bolt.
The Brotherhood has ties to Aryan Nations, an Idaho-based paramilitary organization that advocates racial violence and white supremacy.
In April 1997, John Stojetz, an Aryan Brotherhood leader at an Ohio prison, was convicted in the murder of a 17-year-old Black prisoner.
Since 1996, six murders of inmates at the Pelican Bay State Prison in California have been linked to the Aryan Brotherhood. A local prosecutor characterized the situation at the prison as a "reign of terror." More than 50 inmates in the prison's maximum-security unit are members of the group.
In October 1994, Donald Riley, a member of the Brotherhood, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder in Houston of a Black marine who had recently returned from service in Desert Storm.
Aryan Brotherhood member Roy Slider was convicted in August 1993 of felonious assault in an attack on a correction officer, Thomas Davis, in Ohio. Prison officials said Slider went after Davis because he was Black. Davis died as a result of the attack.
In the 1980s, Brotherhood members challenged a Missouri prison's ban on inmates receiving literature from Aryan Nations and similar groups. Nevertheless, the courts upheld the ban.
The Missouri inmates were also members of a "Christian Identity" organization, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. Members of the "Identity" movement claim that Anglo-Saxons not Jews are the Biblical "chosen people," that nonwhites are mud people on the level of animals, and that Jews are the "children of Satan."
The Turner Diaries: The Turner Diaries was written in 1978 by William Pierce, head of the National Alliance, one of the largest and most organized neo-Nazi groups in the United States.
The novel has become a "Bible" for right-wing extremists. It calls for the violent overthrow of the Federal government, and the systematic killing of Jews and nonwhites.
Pierce's book has reportedly inspired a number of people connected to vicious crimes including Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of bombing the Murrah building in Oklahoma City.
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The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
The Turner Diaries
This is the white supremacist, anti-government hate literature that inspired Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. It was written in 1978 by the now-deceased Dr. William Pierce, founder of the white supremacist organization known as the National Alliance. (The listed author, "Andrew Macdonald," was just a nom de plume.)
The Turner Diaries tells the tale of Earl Turner, a righteous, upstanding caucasian who joins an underground resistance movement after the Jew-Negro conspiracy completed its overthrow of the United States government. And, if you haven't already guessed, the book is written in the form of a diary.
The journals recount in vivid detail what it was like to live through the hellish days of November 1989, when the Zionists and their Negro henchmen finally went door-to-door, confiscating everyone's guns. This was the last straw, triggering full-blown guerrilla warfare against the apparatus of the government.
The race war was remarkably one-sided. The white supremacist forces rolled on to victory after victory, beginning with California. Which is where they demonstrated the lengths to which one has to go in order to achieve permanent victory:
Coming through the mountains just north of Los Angeles we encountered a long column of marchers, heavily guarded by GI's and Organization personnel. As we drove slowly past, I observed the prisoners closely, trying to decide what they were. They didn't seem to be Blacks or Chicanos, and yet only a few of them appeared to be Whites. Many of the faces were distinctly Jewish, while others had features or hair suggesting a Negroid taint. The head of the column turned off the main roadway into a little-used ranger trail which disappeared into a boulder-strewn canyon, while the tail stretched for several miles back toward the city. There may have been as many as 50,000 marchers, representing all ages and both sexes, just in the portion of the column we passed.
Back at HQ I inquired about the strange column. No one was sure, although the consensus was that they were the Jews and the mixedbreeds of too light a hue to be included with the evacuees who were sent east. I remember now something which puzzled me a few days ago: the separation of the very light Blacks -- the almost Whites, the octoroons and quadroons, the unclassifiable mongrels from various Asian and southern climes -- from the others during the concentration and evacuation operations.
And I think I now understand. The clearly distinguishable nonwhites are the ones we want to increase the racial pressure on the Whites outside California. The presence of more almost-White mongrels would merely confuse the issue -- and there is always the danger that they will later "pass" as White. Better to deal with them now, as soon as we get our hands on them. I have a suspicion their trip into that canyon north of here will be a one-way affair!
During the course of their terror campaign, the racist heroes decided to disrupt the FBI's primary computer installation. They used an ammonium nitrate-fuel oil truck bomb to accomplish this feat, which is ultimately what suggested the idea to McVeigh. Some people claim that McVeigh's truck bomb was an homage to the one described in the book, but there are really only so many variables you can play with when you assemble an ANFO bomb. And anything that size is going to require a truck to move it…..
The Organization inexorably rolled on to victory after victory, like an Aryan juggernaut. It all eventually culminated in Turner's strike against the Pentagon, which consisted of a light plane kamikaze attack with an onboard 60-kiloton nuclear bomb. But not before Earl got to recite his histrionic farewell address:
"Brothers! Two years ago, when I entered your ranks for the first time, I consecrated my life to our Order and to the purpose for which it exists. But then I faltered in the fulfillment of my obligation to you. Now I am ready to meet my obligation fully. I offer you my life. Do you accept it?"
In a rumbling unison their reply came back: "Brother! We accept your life. In return we offer you everlasting life in us. Your deed shall not be in vain, nor shall it be forgotten, until the end of time. To this commitment we pledge our lives."
Wow, what discipline. You have to assume that the crowd spent the day practicing that reply, or else they were reading from cue cards.
Like his protagonist Earl Turner, Pierce himself was a zealot who aspired to go down in Whitey History. His self-appointed role was that of the Thomas Paine of his movement, whose works were intended to motivate the White Man into restoring our nation's racially-intolerant glory. Of course, the Founding Fathers never advocated premeditated genocide or the slaughtering of whole cities. But Pierce was probably confident that if George Washington could have known that the mongrels would eventually take control of his beloved democracy, the Father of Our Country would have personally launched a global extermination campaign against the alien races.
As literature, of course, it's nothing but an abject failure. The writing is stiff, the characters are ridiculously one-dimensional, the plot monotonous, and the premise as droll as you can get. The end result comes off sounding like it was written by a skinhead stuck in study hall for a week with nothing else to do.
Above all, the book is just plain boring. But if you read it for insight into the dreams of a committed white supremacist, it might be worthwhile. Just be sure to keep an abundant supply of caffeine handy.