By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Ziska lived with his wife, Joan, and three sons in nearby Fontana. He was an avid surfer and a black belt in tae kwon do. He also taught martial arts to inner-city youth for more than 20 years.
But Ziska had a darker side. Ziska’s former brother-in-law, Vince Cobbold, a former felon who spent 18 months in jail for selling marijuana and methamphetamine, testified that Ziska was a meth user who once looked into joining the Ku Klux Klan.
“He wanted to know if I wanted an application,” he said. Ziska’s son Ryan described his father as a racist who would have disowned him “if I brought home a nigger.”
The 20-year-old college student recalled how his father would regularly engage his older brother in white-power talk and that he once bragged about beating up a black inmate. His favorite coffee mug had a picture of a swastika. During the trial, Ziska’s attorney, Ira Salzman, accused Ryan of taking his mother’s side after the family’s breakup in 2005.
Ziska extolled the virtues of white power, according to federal prosecutors. He shaved his head bald, sported a skull tattoo with lightning bolts blazing out of its mouth, symbolizing “SS,” and was intolerant of other races. He fit in well with the strict rules and regulations of the Nazi Low Riders white prison gang.
The Nazi Low Riders emerged as a white-supremacist prison gang in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Ride took over control of the California prison system’s main yards when the Aryan Brotherhood, the leading white prison gang, was systematically disciplined by the Corrections Department and placed in administrative segregation. The Ride agreed to continue the AB's illegal activities and, in 1999, the Ride became a validated prison gang, along with the Mexican Mafia (Eme) and the Black Guerrilla Family.
Membership in the white-race group is by invitation only. New members must commit a violent act and be sponsored by a “senior.” In addition, the gang follows strict rules of conduct. Members cannot work with law enforcement, associate with known sex offenders or engage in “race mixing.” Race mixing includes dating out of your race, and eating with or touching food prepared by another race. While in prison, Ride members must participate in mandatory exercise and physical-training programs and take part in “roll call” — where they identify themselves as members. Members must also donate 10 to 30 percent of all items received through the mail or purchased at the prison store to the shot caller, or senior member, who passes some of it along to members in secure housing units. A member can be stabbed or killed if he rapes or disrespects a fellow member, or claims to be a member before obtaining membership status.
The gang holds power through intimidation and violence. Stabbing is considered a badge of honor.
If a white inmate is in violation of gang rules, it is the white inmates who take care of it. Snitches and child molesters are called “trash.”
Ziska helped clean up the “trash,” or “lames.”
The indictment accused Ride members of ordering hits, committing violent acts, intimidating witnesses, extortion, drug trafficking and numerous weapons violations. The two who agreed to testify against Ziska, in return for lighter sentences for themselves, were Brian “Skully” Roberg and Robert “Bobbo” Wilson, both of whom became Ziska’s pals inside prison walls.
In 2001, Roberg pleaded guilty and received a plea agreement in return for testifying against Ziska. He also was given $2,000 by the FBI for his troubles.
“It was something that I was thinking about for some time,” he said. “I started talking to them [the FBI] initially because of my request. I wanted to change what was getting me busted in my lifestyle.”
It would be Ziska’s undoing. It would also open the floodgates for many more inmates to come forward.
Thirty-four-year-old Brian Roberg was sent to prison at the age of 18. He did time for possession of drugs for sale, armed robbery and possession of a firearm. While in prison, he became affiliated with the Mexican Mafia and the Aryan Brotherhood. In 1998, he was doing time at Chino. It was at Chino that Roberg, also known as “Mother Fucking Skully,” “MFS” and “Rock Solid,” became a full-fledged member of the Ride. It was a steppingstone to becoming a member of the Aryan Brotherhood.
“I wanted to be recognized by the Aryan Brotherhood for work I put in,” testified Roberg. “The NLR are assets to the Aryan Brotherhood for getting work done and spreading the message. It was about Aryan Brotherhood politics. It was about being aggressive with attitude.”
Roberg eventually became the shot caller for the Ride at Chino prison, announcing mandatory workouts in the yard and conducting “church meetings” to discuss gang business. Over a span of two years, he admitted to calling hits on five inmates, including the stabbing of a white inmate who lied about having a Ride sponsor, and a gang member who overheard a conversation about an assault on an inmate and tipped off the intended target. As the shot caller, he held ultimate authority over the white inmates. No one could be stabbed or beaten without his permission.
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