As legend has it the Aryan Brotherhood formed at San Quentin Prison in California in 1967 in the cauldron of the prison race wars to fight the Black Guerrilla Family, a black prison gang led by the notorious Black Panther, revolutionary and author of Soledad Brother, George Jackson. The white supremacist group, which later became known as the Brand was originally comprised of prisoners of Irish descent and former members of 50’s biker tips such as the Diamond Tooth gang and the Bluebird gang. The tips came together in the gladiator school style type prisons under a neo-Nazi banner. The Aryan Brotherhood was for whites only and its members were the most Violent and ferocious of their race who sported Nazi and Viking tattoos, big handlebar mustaches, thick bull necks and massive forearms. A shamrock or clover leaf tattoo was the designated brand of gang members who wore a collage of swastikas, Nazi lightning bolts, white pride, 666 and 88 tattoos. By 1975 the gang was all throughout the California system.
“They formed to take care of the whites in the California system because of the black prison gangs,” says Dog* an AB associate. “It was a way for them to make money. A protection racket.” Rebel* another associate concurs.
“What really got them originated was the white boys had to come together for protection purposes. The blacks were acting like they ran shit so the white boys got together to say you can run it but you ain’t running us.” And in the middle of a race war, as documented by convict author Edward Bunker in Education of a Felon the whites came together to hold their own as one of the big four prison gangs that started in the California system. Along with the Black Guerrilla Family, the Mexican Mafia and the Nuestra Familia the Brand took their place in prison legend as lore as one of the most fierce. But the Aryan Brotherhood wasn’t for everyone. They choose prospective members carefully. It was an exclusive membership of only the most violent and loyal convicts.
“You have to kill a black to get in. Blood in, blood out.” Dog says. “There’s nothing wrong with that in my mind.” And a lot of other gang members agree. “We believe in being separatists,” Rebel says. “We got freedom of speech, freedom of religion. Being a separatist is a form of religion. It’s like them old bylaws- blacks can’t eat here. AB’s do time the way we want. We get high when we want to get high. We drink when we want to drink and we fight and kill when we want to fight and kill.” And the killing is what made their reputation inside and outside the walls. They killed in full view of guards. They killed in order to impose a culture of terror that would solidify their power base. They killed rival gang members, blacks, homos, snitches, people who stole from them and owed them money and prison guards.
“They’re the most treacherous,” Dog says. “They can just reach out and touch someone. Like that AT&T commercial.” The Brand killed by garrote and bludgeon and prison-made knives. They were violent, disciplined and fearless. “They wouldn’t sneak up and stab you.” Dog continues. “They’d do it right in the open. If a brother told you he was coming to kill you he was coming to kill you. They were not scared of nothing that I ever saw.” Rebel adds, “Lots of killings. Putting hits on baby rappers and snitches. They don’t hide from the police. They’re doing life sentences. Even if their guy was wrong they ride with him. They don’t fight fair. They’ll all jump on you. Shit they’re like the Musketeers, all for one and one for all. They got shanks all over the yard. Easy access.” And as the gang expanded into the federal system and other prisons across the nation in the 80’s and 90’s their reputation preceded them.
“They’re feared. They’re basically feared on every yard because it’s known if any of them are fucked with there’ll be consequences.” Dog says. “They will do whatever they have to do. Fuck with you fuck with them all. They’re given a wide berth. Even the niggers. Dudes that clicked with them were given a wide berth. They didn’t say boo to them. They would get drugs and stuff at a discount. Instead of 3 bags for 50 they’d get 6 for 50. You don’t want to start nothing with them. If they perceive you’re weak and you have something, especially heroin, they’ll take it.” Rebel concurs.
“They want their issue of everything.” He says. “I had to hide their shanks of drugs or whatever. That’s how I did my time. If you screw up you’re dead. They don’t take no excuses.” And as their notoriety increased and membership grew they established a chain of command modeled loosely on the structure of the Italian Mafia with commission that communicated via correspondence through 3rd parties passing orders to their prison based branches all across the US. The 3 man commissions were also a way to channel the gangs’ violence and resolve in-house feuds. They established drug trafficking, security, extortion and gambling rackets in prisons all over the country. The leaders who had multiple life sentences worked out of solitary confinement cells in some of the most secure prisons in the world. From Pelican Bay, the supermax in California, and ADX Florence, the Alcatraz of the Rockies, the Brand ran a prison empire through coded invisible ink letter. The FBI investigated them from 1982 to 1989, but the US Attorney declined prosecution. But the FBI reported that “the purpose of the AB is now power and is not a racial organization as it has been in the past.” They even took a hit from John Gotti, the Mafioso, who offered the Brand $100,000 to kill the black prisoner who assaulted him at USP Marion in 1996.
“The AB was an inspiration for all the other cliques.” Rebel says. “They saw what they did and that they got theirs and they cliqued up too.” Spawning mini-AB groups like the Dirty White Boys, and Nazi Low Riders who often worked with the Brand. “I don’t think the AB’s are as racist as they’re made out to be.” Rebel continues. “It was a nation of white boys so they called themselves Aryans. It’s a title the government put on them. The racist thing. Separatists just want to be separated. White Pride across their backs. A clique of people that grouped up, so they made it out to be a racist thing. They fuck up a white dude as quick as they fuck up a black dude. All the AB is a society within a society. If they would leave them alone it wouldn’t be broadcasted so much as a violent thing versus a positive thing.” But leaving them alone wasn’t to be and as the killings and a new race war jumping off in the federal pens between the Brand and the DC Blacks the feds started investigating again and in Y2K they struck.
On August 28, 2002, AUSA Greg Jessner indicted virtually the entire leadership of the gang. The indictment reached back 20 years spanning 3 decades and 32 murders. Forty members were indicted of federal racketeering charges in a 140, 10 count indictment. The majority of the gang members were already doing life sentences, so 23 of them are eligible for the death penalty. “This is a homicidal organization,” Jessner announced. “That’s what they do. They kill people I suspect they kill more then the Mafia. They may be the most murderous criminal organization in the United States.” The indictment is the largest capital case in the history of California and the AUSA indicted the Brand, a prison gang with laws originally passed to target Mafia leaders. “Inmates and others who do not follow orders of the AB are subject to being murdered as is anyone who uses violence against an AB member or anyone who cooperates with law enforcement.” The indictment reads.
“Mainstream America is gonna go by what the prosecutor says,” Dog says of the case. “But the brothers are honorable men. As far as trying to hit all these boys with the RICO, they already serving Jurassic park numbers and the government told them they’re animals, locking them up 24 hours a day in solitary confinement, so fuck it, why not become vicious animals.” Rebel feels the same. “The government knows what’s up. It’s the government trying to crush any type of anarchism.” He says. “They perpetrate these myths, these lies. They don’t know what it is. All they got is their snitches. They took everything from the brothers. But for the AB’s, they’re not taking our manhood, fuck that.” And there’s been allegations of the feds running a snitch school also to manufacture evidence and testimony against the brotherhood’s leaders. With coached and paid for testimony how can the government loose?
US vs Mills, No CR02-938 (C) (C.D. Calif.) is the docket number and the alleged leaders of the Brand have become legendary figures. Barry “The Baron” Mills, aged 57 and TD “The Hulk” Bingham, aged 58 are the leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood the government alleges. The indictment says that they’ve orchestrated the brotherhoods campaign from their cells at ADX, the federal supermax. Mills is doing life for a 1979 prison murder, but Bingham is scheduled for release in 2012, but if both are convicted they’ll face the death penalty. Another primary in the case is Thomas “Terrible Tom” Silverstein who started the AB-DC Black race war by killing Raymond “Cadillac” Smith, the leader of the DC Blacks in 1982 by stabbing him 67 times in the Marion Control Unit.
“Within the gangs’ lore, Silverstein has become the Christ figure,” AUSA Jessner said. And to an associate like Rebel they are all legends. “To an extent I would say they are prison legends,” he relates. “Because they did the time how they wanted to do it. Fuck the niggers. Fuck the police. Fuck everyone.” And the race war with the DC Blacks is the central factor in the governments case as the 1997 killing of 2 DC Blacks at USP Lewisburg was allegedly ordered by Bingham in an invisible ink message written in urine.
“The reality is federal penitentiaries are violent and dangerous places and all these guys- white guys- are a small minority and they’re just trying to survive.” Dean Steward, Mills Attorney said. And Mills testifying for himself at a previous trial concurred, “We live in a different society then you do. There is justified violence in our society. I’m here to tell you that.” And Bingham who benches 500 pounds and is known as Super Honkey backed this up also in his folksy manner, “There’s a code in every segment of society. Well, we have a different kind of moral and ethical code.” But the patron saint. Terrible Tom Silverstein said it best at one of his numerous murder trials, “I have walked over dead bodies. I’ve had guts splattered all over my chest from race wars.” And nowadays the AB’s are a bunch of old geezers though no less deadly and they might get the death penalty, but their trial has shown the public the dark world of prison life and gang membership. And like Dog says, even if they kill all the leaders “it’ll never be over. Especially in California. It will spring up again. It will come back. As long as blacks and whites don’t get along it will be back.”
Enemies of The Brand
The AB was originally formed to fight the Black Guerrilla Family, which was founded in San Quentin by George Jackson in 1966. The Former Black Panther, revolutionary and author of Soledad Brother had a vile hatred of the system and all things white. The BGF would beat, kill and maim random white when they caught them out of their cells for no other reason than that they were white. This cauldron of hate and atmosphere of tension, which existed at San Quentin at the time fermented the race wars in the California system and led to the rise of the big four prison gangs, which were divided along racial lines-The Aryan Brotherhood, Black Guerrilla Family, Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia. The BGF allied with the Nuestra Family and fought a constant battle against the AB’s who allied with the Mexican Mafia who was constantly at war with their counterparts from the northern part of California, Nuestra Familia while they represented the southern part of California.
The BGF was the most politically oriented of the gangs. It was formed as a revolutionary organization along paramilitary lines. Its goal was to overthrow the US government. They were led by a Supreme Commander or Chairman and the lowest echelon of gang members were known as soldiers. They originated out of the MAD Adjustment center at San Quentin, the first SHU in the country. They recruit members of black street gangs like the Crips, disenchanted members of radical black organizations and are aligned with the Black Liberation Army. Their founder George Jackson was killed by guards at San Quentin in the early seventies. A victim of his fame and notoriety.
The race wars in the federal system started on Nov 22, 1981 when the body of Robert M Chappelle, a member of the DC Blacks was found dead in his cell at USP Marion. Thomas “Terrible Tom” Silverstein was the killer and Chappelle’s death worried bureau official who thought it might spark a war, which it certainly did.
Raymond “Cadillac” Smith, the alleged national leader of the DC blacks was the next person killed. Terrible Tom struck again on Sept 27, 1982 stabbing Cadillac 67 times in the Marion control Unit and dragging his body up and down the tier so that those locked in their cells could see. The race wars against the DC blacks raged across the feds in the early 1980’s and again in the 1990’s when 2 DC blacks were killed at USP Lewisburg by AB members who stabbed them 35 and 34 times to death. The violent campaign against the DC Blacks and the alleged race war are at the center of the government’s 2002 indictment against the Aryan Brotherhood.
The DC Blacks are prisoners from Washington DC who usually make up the largest single ethnic group from any single city making up 10 percent of the overall federal prison population. They are well schooled in violence from their time spent at Lorton the infamous DC penitentiary, and are known as notorious locker knockers, petty thieves and for pressuring prisoners for sex. A lot of DC Blacks were members of the Moorish religion at one time.
“The most ferocious and notorious of any of the prison groups is the Aryan Brotherhood,” the FBI reported. Over its four decade history the gang has evolved from an organization focusing on aggression against blacks to a violent white supremacist group that runs sophisticated gambling, extortion and dope operations in prison across the nation.
The Brand as the gang is called makes it members read The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Machiavelli’s, The Prince and Nietzsche as well as, exercising vigorously to stay in shape and studying Anatomy books, so as to know where to stab enemies and inflict killing blows. They’ve been accused of running-a barbed wire empire of terror, drugs and extortion. The case reached back 40 years to include stabbings, strangulations, poisonings, contract hits, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery and narcotics trafficking. A brief history of the gang-
1967: The Aryan Brotherhood is formed in California’s San Quentin maximum security prison. Irish bikers and remnants of the Diamond Tooth Gang and a 50’s gang known as the Bluebirds come together with some Neo-Nazi leaning prisoners of German descent to found the brotherhood specifically to fight against the Black Guerrilla Family and to get paid for protecting white prisoner against them.
1975: The gang grows developing a reputation for violence, discipline and fearlessness. They ally with the Mexican Mafia and start protecting mob figures in the federal prison for money further developing their protection racket. This money and connection allows them to get into organized crime.
1980: The gang becomes more organized developing a chain of command modeled after the Italian Mafia. Two factions of the gang emerge- the California state faction and the federal one. The federal faction creates a 3-man commission to control activity in federal prison. Barry “The Baron” Mills and TD “The Hulk” Bingham are allegedly running the commission.
1982: With the killings of DC Blacks Robert Chapelle and Raymond “Cadillac” Smith by Thomas “Terrible Tom” Silverstein at USP Marion the DC Black/AB race war in the feds starts leading to 2 decades of revenge/retribution killings. An FBI investigation into the gang also starts.
1983: Two guards are killed at USP Marion by AB members Thomas Silverstein and Clay Fountain marking the first time in federal prison history two guards are killed on the same day and this event further enhances the AB’s penchant for violence.
1989: The FBI concludes their 7 year investigation of the gang, but the US Attorney declines to prosecute as the only witnesses to the prison crimes are convicted killers, former gang members, and jailhouse informants. The FBI report states that members of the AB are recruiting new members from prisons around the country.
1990: Authorities relocate most of the brotherhoods leaders to supermax prisons like ADX FLorence and Pelican Bay where prisoners are held in single cells 24 hours a day with minimal human contact. The gangs operations continue unhindered as secret coded invisible ink messages are sent out of the restricted environment by means of being written in urine or citric acid, which when heated becomes readable.
1992: AUSA Gregory Jessner begins investigating the gang after it’s linked to a strangulation at USP Lompoc in California.
1994: Michael “Big Mac” McElhiey transfers to USP Leavenworth from USP Marion with instructions from alleged AB leader Barry Mills to take over all operations and rackets at the prison. Big Mac does with violence and efficiency, but catches a heroin case in the process due to jailhouse snitches.
1997: Barry Mills and TD Bingham allegedly order a race war at USP Lewisburg leading to the death of two DC Blacks who are murdered viciously.
1999: Letters written by Barry Mills to paroled gang members are intercepted. The letters attempt to cajole the paroled gang members to polish the rock, meaning to expand the gangs’ rackets on the outside of prison.
2002: AUSA Gregory Jessner indicts all the suspected leaders of the AB with a sweeping 40 person 10 count racketeering indictment charging 32 murders over 3 decades. The government seeks the death penalty.
2006: The first in a series of gang member trials begin in Orange County California. The alleged leaders Barry “The Baron” Mills and TD “The Hulk” Bingham are accused of ordering or participating in 15 murders in the last 25 years. 19 members have already pled guilty and the defense alleges a snitch school comprised of 6 gang dropouts that was located in the H unit at ADX Florence where testimony was manufactured, coached and paid for. 42 jailhouse informants testify for the prosecution.
October 2006: The rest of the gang including Michael “Big Man” McElhiey and Thomas “Terrible Tom” Silverstein are expected of go to trial on similar RICO charges.
November 2006: Most members of the gang including alleged leaders Mills and Bingham are given life sentences on top of the life sentences they were already serving.
Aryan Brotherhood Lexicon
The Brand- the name the brotherhood is known by to members and refers to the shamrock or clover leaf tattoo found on members that denotes membership and signifies the Brand.
Blood In, Blood Out- This is the process by which someone is accepted into the gang meaning they have to kill to get in and the only way to get out is by death.
Making Your Bones- This is the initiation into the gang. When you kill someone to get in it is called making your bones.
Rocking Someone To Sleep- This is the process of disarming a target for murder by making him think you are friends. By rocking someone to sleep it makes them easier to kill when they aren’t expecting it.
Lie or Die- When questioned by law enforcement types the Brand’s motto is to lie or die because if you tell the truth and cooperate with law enforcement you will be marked for death, so you must lie to them and make them think you are telling the truth.
Getting Writted- This is when one AB member has a case and his defense lawyer gets all his brothers and fellow gang members writted in to be defense witnesses in the case at hand so that all the brotherhood members can be gathered at one place to discuss gang business.
Keistered- This is when a gang member in transit or in the hole sticks contraband such as drugs, tobacco or shanks up his ass so that it won’t be found in strip searches and body searches.
In the Hat- this term is used when someone is marked or targeted for death. If someone is in the hat in gang parlance it means he will be killed soon.
Burpees- this exercise consisting of a combination of push ups and jumping jacks is performed by AB members on lockdown to stay in good shape. Sometimes thousands of burpees will be done a day.
Polishing the Rock- this term refers to gang members on the outside doing things to further gang and brotherhood business on the outside. Before leaving prison they will be urged to keep polishing the rock.
Kytes- this is what letters or notes to fellow prisoners are called. They might be in invisible ink or coded and are often sent via transferring prisoners or via a third party on the outside who will mail it to the appropriate gang member. Kytes typically contain instructions and order for furthering brotherhood business.
Runners- this term refers to girlfriends, associates and people on the outside who help the gang to achieve their goals by ferrying messages into and out of various prisons. They also gather mail at designated mail drops and forward them to other gang members in different prisons, smuggle drugs for the brotherhood into prisons through the visiting rooms and gather and collect monies sent to the higher ups in the gang either to put on their account or to pay for more drugs coming into the prisons,
Snitch School- the defense lawyers for the AB members currently on trial allege that the government set up a snitch school in unit H at ADX FLorence for the express purpose of manufacturing and coaching evidence and testimony to indict the alleged leaders of the AB. Most of the informants who are alleged to have participated in the snitch school at ADX Florence are gang dropouts. Its been said that they were given access to Bureau of Prison files on gang members, FBI information and computer files that shouldn’t have been made available to them so that they could all corroborate their stories and get them straight with the evidence that the US Attorneys would be presenting at trial.