Aryan Brotherhood Tried for 40 Years of Prison Mayhem

ByABC News
March 14, 2006, 10:14 PM

March 15, 2006 — -- Murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics trafficking, extortion, gambling, robbery, intimidation and assault. According to federal prosecutors, these are the crimes the Aryan Brotherhood carried out behind bars for over 40 years.

The group's homicidal and corrupting tentacles, which first sprouted in 1964 in California's San Quentin prison, now reach across the country and throughout the federal prison system, alleges a newly unveiled 140-count federal indictment.

In one of the largest capital punishment cases ever, the document alleges 32 murders and almost as many attempted murders. As many as 16 defendants could face the death penalty; some of them are already serving multiple life sentences.The first of several trials involves four of the alleged leaders and could last until the end of the year.

The Aryan Brotherhood reportedly hatched from a collective of white inmates known as The Bluebird Gang. In the racially charged world behind bars, they watched as black and Hispanic inmates organized and gained influence in the California prison system, so they changed their name.

And these days, they've even changed their stripes -- the Aryan Brotherhood now counts some mixed-race men among their legion.

Prosecutors say the Brotherhood's endgame is power and intimidation, and even white inmates not invited to join feel threatened. Members are required to abide by rules established by the "councils" or "commissions."

"In the beginning, their crimes were solely motivated by race. As the criminal organization has evolved, they have tended towards crimes that have little or nothing to do with race," said Melissa Carr of the Anti-Defamation League of Orange County.

There have been times, however, that the group has reverted back to its original purpose, said Carr. "Violent criminal activity exploded around the Aryan Brotherhood in the late '90s in what their leader called a 'race war'," she said. "Their mindset was to take down all black prisoners or members of black prison gangs."