By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
And yet Halualani and Jessner say the crazy vein that runs through the AB has also led to their downfall. Allen “Slim” Hawley was an AB associate at Leavenworth who wound up testifying against leaders there after he could “smell the blood” — meaning he feared he was about to be killed by them. A cache of “kites” (secret prison messages passed between inmates) found in Hawley’s cell reveals he had reason to worry: One criticized him for sharing heroin he’d managed to get into the Shoe with other inmates: “You’re going to bring the beast out of me. Fuck everybody except us, you hear?” Another admonished him for failing to seal the kites correctly: “You better wise up, foolio. This ain’t time for your goofy ass behavior.”
“They have difficulty in keeping their members loyal,” says Jessner. “There are many letters we intercepted from the top leaders expressing frustration over the AB members who are supposed to ‘keep polishing the rock’ on the outside, as they say, but aren’t getting the job done.” He adds it takes a paroled AB member about six months to get “the beast” out of their system, after which they usually come to the conclusion, WhatthehellwasIthinking?
The untold number of man-hours Jessner and Halualani have sunk into this case, with the help of many confidential informants from the AB’s own ranks, could itself be a potential minefield. “Most of your witnesses have something of concern in their background, so you have to be careful,” Jessner admits, citing the 1993 El Rukins debacle in Chicago, where most of the 30 major convictions of the gang’s leadership were tossed out due to accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. It took three trials to convict AB chief Michael “Big Mac” McElhiney, feared heroin baron of Leavenworth; the first trial resulted in a hung jury that was complicated when a female juror fell in love with the accused. Even after the final verdict, McElhiney, who acted as his own counsel, drew praise from the presiding judge: “This was a difficult case that was well tried on both sides . . . Mr. McElhiney did an excellent job of representing himself.” McElhiney further represented himself in a five-page letter to TheTopekaCapital-Journal,writing, “Despite popular assertion . . . No man’s life has been lost by my hand or command.”
Meanwhile, the outcomes of recent AB-related trials have been more encouraging. In April 2003, after pleading guilty to various drug and RICO charges, five lower-level members and one associate were given sentences ranging from 7 to 14 years. Five months later, Paul “Cornfed” Schneider, a gang chieftain at Pelican Bay, drew life in prison for conspiracy in the 1995 murder of Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy Frank Trejo. A month after that, in Texas, Jerry Michael Walters (called “Iron Man” by his AB cohorts) was handed 33 years for his role in the grisly execution-style murder of 28-year-old Joe Uridales at the San Padre Island National Seashore.
In the Santa Ana trial, no one can get more than 20 years, but, says Jessner, “If we are able to get the death penalty for the leadership, I hope it would make membership in the AB a lot less attractive. Another reason I’m hopeful is, as far as I know, the AB had been slowed down much as of late; it’s been pretty quiet [since the indictments].” But “quiet” is a relative term. Things at the West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino, where much of the AB leadership is housed, have been recently described as “extremely tense.” And in December, Michael Bruce Shepherd, an AB member who had recently pleaded guilty to a lesser RICO charge, was found hung in his cell at the Santa Ana Central Jail. It appeared to be a suicide, but his death is under grand-jury review.
After meeting Jessner, one cannot help but wonder if he is concerned for his ownsafety. Michael McElhiney, the man said to have ordered the first-ever murder in Leavenworth’s supposedly impenetrable “hole,” sits in a single cell at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown L.A., a block away from the prosecutor’s office. One of Jessner’s colleagues expressed interest in working on the Aryan Brotherhood case but begged off after his wife grew fearful for his safety. “I’m not all that concerned,” Jessner maintains. “I have no reason to think that they would come after me. Even if they did, there are 10,000-plus federal prosecutors. Someone would just rise to replace me.”
Mike Halualani, for his part, claims the Aryan Brotherhood cost him his hair.
BarryByron Mills (a.k.a. “The Baron” or “McB”)
An AB founder. Indicted for racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder — as well as actually carrying one out, the 1979 near-decapitation of inmate John Mazloff (for allegedly cheating fellow AB leader “Terrible Tom” Silverstein in a drug deal). Eligible for the death penalty.
Tyler Davis Bingham
(a.k.a. “T.D.” or “The Hulk”)
An AB leader. Accused of ordering the murders and assaults of AB enemies and dropouts. Eligible for the death penalty.Richard Lloyd Terflinger
(a.k.a. “Bart Simpson”)