The defendants are
charged with directing or carrying out about a dozen
murders or attempted murders and trying to instigate a
race war with black inmates.
Emmick said the
convicted Mafia boss John Gotti once hired the Ayran
Brotherhood to kill a man who had fought him in a prison
yard. But gang members were unable to carry out the
contract because they could not find the intended victim.
The four defendants,
who are normally housed in some of Americaís toughest
prisons, came to court dressed in civilian clothes,
wearing glasses and sporting similar bushy moustaches.
They sat, shackled to
the floor by chains at their ankles and waists, on a
special riser in the courtroom and conferred with their
Emmick told jurors the
Aryan Brotherhood, also known as "the Brand," began at
Californiaís San Quentin state prison in the 196Os and
had an exclusive membership of only the most violent and
It usually required a
prospective member to commit murder before they could
join -- known as "blood in, blood out" or "making your
An inmate marked for
death was called "in the hat," Emmick said, and was
typically stabbed with a homemade prison knife.
makes home in state
Florence prison now
Hughes - Denver Post
November 24, 2002
When the late New York
mobster John Gotti, the "Dapper Don," wanted retribution
against a fellow inmate who had attacked him in the
federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill., in July 1996, he
knew whom to talk to. He went straight to the two
inmates running the Marion chapter of the Aryan
Brotherhood prison gang and told them he wanted the man
They assigned the job
to an Aryan Brotherhood member and told two other men to
let the gang's "Federal Commission" know about the
They got the message
out of Marion, the prison once considered the nation's
toughest, and the oral memo moved slowly west until
September 1997, when it wiggled into Marion's successor
institution - the Administrative Maximum Facility in
Florence, the deepest, most heavily guarded, most
closely watched hole in the federal Bureau of Prisons
Better known as "Supermax,"
the so-called ADX is the prototype for the nation's
super-maximum-security prisons. And it's now the Aryan
Brotherhood's home office, with two senior gang leaders
incarcerated there, government prosecutors say.
Inmates Barry Byron
Mills, 54, and Tyler Davis Bingham, 55, have been able
to continue running the gang from inside ADX, a prison
designed and managed to isolate the country's worst
criminals. A recent federal indictment alleges that over
23 years, 32 murders have been ordered, 16 of them
successful, though Gotti's was not.
Mills and Bingham have
helped the Aryan Brotherhood develop many criminal
enterprises outside of prison walls across the country,
last month's 110-page indictment, unsealed in Los
Once released from
prison, Aryan Brotherhood members move marijuana by the
truckload across the country, according to the
indictment. They shake down drug dealers and other
profit-makers on the streets, extending the gang's
behind-prison-walls practice of "taxing" profit-making
criminal enterprises run by other white inmates.
The gang also has
entered into partnerships with Asian gangs to import
heroin from Thailand, according to the federal
Motivated by its
collective hunger for power and profit, the gang has
dropped much of the racial animus present at its
founding in the mid-1960s, the government reports. The
gang has been partnering with gangs such as the Mexican
Mafia for more than 20 years and has nonwhite members.
'Not a racial
"The purpose of the AB
is now power and is not a racial organization as it has
been deemed in the past," the FBI reported in 1983. "The
AB's continue to be aligned with members of the Mexican
Mafia and certain motorcycle type inmates."
While officials have
known about the Aryan Brotherhood for decades, that the
gang is not only present in ADX but being run from there
challenges the public perception of the prison as a
place where the nation's worst criminals are sent, never
to be heard from again.
ADX opened in 1994,
and among its current 414 inmates are Unabomber Ted
Kaczynski and several of the terrorists convicted of
bombing the World Trade Center in 1993.
Officials at ADX
restrict inmates' ability to communicate. The hardest
cases are locked down, alone, for 22 1/2 hours a day.
Ramzi Yousef, the self-professed mastermind of the Trade
Center bombing, is one such inmate, according to
documents filed by his lawyer in U.S. District Court
Brotherhood's ability to function even at ADX, a place
bristling with video cameras and microphones, confirms
the worst suspicions of penal-system critics, said Kara
Gotsch, public policy coordinator for the American Civil
Liberties Union's National Prison Project in Washington,
"Gangs are a huge
problem in this country's prison system, and corrections
(officials) just have to work harder to make sure that
they're not running these facilities," she said. "When
you have numerous gangs running the system, we have a
Gotsch said the rise
of gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood is the ultimate
proof that American prisons are failing to rehabilitate
As for further
restricting prisoners' ability to get criminal messages
in and out of prisons, it probably would be
unconstitutional to make ADX any tighter, said Assistant
U.S. Attorney Gregory Jessner in Los Angeles, who is
helping prosecute the Aryan Brotherhood case.
"As a practical matter,
unless you cut off all contact with the outside world,
people have the ability to send surreptitious messages,"
he said. "That's essentially impossible to cut off."
According to FBI
records, inmates planning crimes often use code words
when speaking to visitors and on the telephone.
Some also write
letters to people on the outside using "invisible ink."
The text of an Aryan Brotherhood communique intercepted
in 1984 at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan.,
was visible only after being pressed with a hot iron,
according to the FBI.
It was written in
urine, and even that message may have been coded.
Experts also attribute
the success of prison gangs to their ability to buy the
cooperation of guards. The Aryan Brotherhood indictment
alleges that happened at ADX.
leaders there received key help from former ADX guard
Joseph Principe, 42, prosecutors say.
The indictment says
Principe filed a false report at the request of Aryan
Brotherhood inmates. It also accuses him of arranging
for gang leaders to meet, unobserved by other guards, to
discuss gang business.
Principe denies both
He never helped the
gang, and it would have been impossible for him to do
so, Principe said, adding that the ADX system monitors
guards as closely as inmates.
"That's out of the
question," Principe said at the state Arkansas Valley
Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison, in
Crowley, where he is now an inmate, convicted of assault
and menacing outside the prison.
Aryan gang arose in
The Aryan Brotherhood
evolved in the mid-1960s from the Blue Bird Gang, a
collective of white inmates at San Quentin, a California
state prison. By the mid-1960s, after watching black and
Hispanic gangs gain prominence across the California
state prison system, Blue Bird members decided to change
their name and increase their stature, government
But it was in the
federal system that the Aryan Brotherhood found its
first significant revenue stream - from Gotti's
predecessors in Italian-American organized crime groups,
known collectively as La Cosa Nostra.
Often older than other
inmates and serving long sentences, those gangland
convicts paid for Aryan Brotherhood muscle to keep them
alive in some of the country's most dangerous maximum-security
"In return, the
mobsters were safe while inside the walls and were
obligated to offer the AB members a 'slice of the pie'
on the streets when they were paroled," said a 1983
report from the FBI in Los Angeles.
In 1980, with approval
from the Aryan Brotherhood leadership in California,
members who had wound up in the federal system formed
the Federal Commission to run the gang in federal
In the early 1990s the
Federal Commission formed a middle-management "council,"
which now runs the gang's day-to-day operations, freeing
up Federal Commission members to consider long-term
issues, the indictment says.
Inside prisons, the
gang has maintained large gambling and extortion
operations, and also oversees the buying and selling of
"punks," inmate jargon for sex slaves, the indictment
The Federal Commission
also presided over race wars that pitted the Aryan
Brotherhood against African-American prison gangs such
as the D.C. Blacks, wars that raged across the federal
prison system in the early 1980s and again in the 1990s,
government reports say.
A government informant
made a suggestion in 1984, after Aryan Brotherhood
members murdered prison guards at Marion and at another
prison in Oxford, Wis., that may be connected to the
presence today of so many top gang leaders at ADX.
"He feels that the
murders of the correctional officers will spread like
cancer lesions, and the way to stop these murders is to
localize the members of the AB and put them all in a
single prison," the FBI reported. "This will stop the
spread of the cancer."
Another theory is that
prison officials have brought gang leaders to Florence
to better study their operation. Officials at ADX for
years have gathered information on the Aryan Brotherhood
and other prison gangs from prisoner informants housed
in a tier of cells called H Unit, Principe said.
ADX inmate John
Greschner filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in
Denver in 2000 alleging that the same H Unit
intelligence-gathering operation Principe described was
violating his civil rights.
That "snitch" program
- which ADX officials would not confirm exists - is
probably the source of prosecutors' belief that he was
involved with the gang, Principe said.
He said cooperating
inmates often make things up to win privileges from
investigators, and that is how his name ended up in the
ADX Warden Robert Hood
declined to comment. His executive assistant, Wendy
Montgomery, said she couldn't comment on Principe's
allegations because they were the subject of an
She also refused to
talk about how prison officials gather intelligence at
ADX or how they ensure its validity.
But Dan Dunn of the
Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C., said
investigators are aware of the games inmates play and
have ways of verifying intelligence offered by inmate
The Aryan Brotherhood
indictment is the result of a six-year investigation led
by federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
agents in California.
That investigation saw
the participation of every ATF office in the country and
of other federal and local law enforcement and
corrections departments, said Latese Baker, an ATF agent
in Los Angeles.
Though they say they
consider the indictment a significant achievement,
prosecutors are only tentatively optimistic of what
effect the case may have on the Aryan Brotherhood and
the larger prison culture.
"If in fact some of
them are given the death penalty and that represents a
large portion of the leadership, that will certainly
change the Aryan Brotherhood," said federal prosecutor
Jessner from Los Angeles.Experts say the effect will be
little, if any - and short-term, at best.
If the indicted
prisoners are somehow taken out of the loop, others will
simply assume their leadership roles, experts say.
"It's not going to be
broken up," said Robert Walker, a retired South Carolina
corrections official and gang expert who now consults
prisons on gang management. "The groups are not going to