Ringleaders and Rats

bloodDisneyland was close to Hollywood, but Terrible Tom wouldn’t see either place.

Con Air landed at Los Angeles International Airport.  The plane bypassed the main terminal and taxied toward a remote hangar.  Across the way, a forklift loaded heavy crates onto a flatbed truck trailer.

A parade of U.S. Marshal vehicles sat parked and waiting as Con Air came to a halt.  The plane’s engines wound down, and the forward hatch was opened just as a gantry arrived.  Security was tight.  Heavily armed marshals were everywhere, even on the roofs of buildings.  All the marshals wore body armor and most carried automatic assault rifles.  A few carried high-powered sniper-rifles, and camped out on rooftops with spotters.

One at a time, the twenty passengers of Con Air descended the stairs to the tarmac, where six marshals escorted them to their assigned vehicles.  When loaded, each vehicle departed accompanied by two escort cars.  This threesome was designated a group.  As a group left the airport, the group was joined by three L.A. police cars, which were called Chase1, Chase 2 and Chase 3.  In each chase car rode four police officers, wearing body armor.

Each group drove to its assigned destination:  some went to prisons in Southern California, others to jails.  Upon arrival, the group’s prisoners were transferred to isolated maximum-security cells.

The Hulk and Barry ‘the Baron’ Mills went directly to cells at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, which is in San Bernadino.  Their cells were in a special wing of the jail, which had recently been evacuated of all other prisoners.  Terrible Tom was at West Valley Detention Center too, but he had his own private wing, which was nowhere near the other two members of the Aryan Brotherhood.

They were in Los Angeles for a trial – their trial.  On trial would be 40 members of the Aryan Brotherhood, including the shotcallers – the so-called National Commission:  Barry Mills, Tyler Bingham and Thomas Silverstein.  They would be tried for 32 murders and approximately 100 attempted murders.  Of the 40 Aryan Brothers on trial, 16 could face the death penalty.  All 40 of the Aryan Brothers would not be tried at the same time and same location.  There would be five different trials spread out over seven Southern California counties.  Of those five trials the Big Daddy was the one in Santa Ana, because it touched The Baron, The Hulk and Terrible Tom – the Commissioners of the Aryan Brotherhood.

For almost four years the passengers of Con Air – Operation Arrow – languished in their cells while the preliminary legal proceedings took place:  motions were filed, counter-motions were filed, discovery took place, statements were taken, and hundreds of preliminary hearings were held.  And plea bargain deals were offered.

In March 2006, in Santa Ana, California, the trial began.  The trial took place in the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in what was called the “Nuremberg Room,” which was similar to the courtroom in Germany in which 22 leaders of the Third Reich were tried.  Both courtrooms had three rows of dockets where defendants were shackled by chains to anchors in the floor.

Real Nazis were tried at Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946 for “crimes against humanity.”  Recycled Nazis were on trial in Santa Ana.  Both groups believed they were Aryan warriors.  There were other simlarities:  both groups were pimps, drug dealers and cowards, murdering their victims in shower-stalls.  Members of both groups were glorified evildoers who showed their devotion by means of tattoos:  swastikas and shamrocks and lightning bolts.  All were criminals.  All coveted power.  All were greedy.  And each group sought to establish an empire built on violence, terror and blood.

Barry Mills’ attorneys, Mark Montgomery and Frank Sansoni, decided early on not to call either Barry Mills or Tyler ‘the Hulk’ Bingham as witnesses.  Both criminals were too volatile, too angry, too spastic.  But the attorneys would call Thomas Silverstein, aka Terrible Tom.

U.S. District Judge David Baxter had already authorized it, stipulating that “the witness will be shackled in court just like a Silence of the Lambs character.  He will come out here in chains and sit here in chains,” said Judge Baxter.

Sherry Sikes was the lead prosecutor.  She had been selected because she was smart as God, never gave up and loved verbal sparring.  Infighting was her thing.  If the defense got her on the ropes in a corner, she came out pounding.

Sikes was young and blond, and pretty enough to have been a movie star.  She had been assisting Gregory Jessner, the U.S. Attorney who had originally filed the indictment against the Aryan Brotherhood.  Before the case came to trial, Jessner resigned and went into private practice.  Some people thought Jessner left because his name had been “put in the hat.”  When asked about it, Jessner had said, “I don’t know.  It’s a pretty big hat.  I worry.  You can’t help but worry.”

“The people call Kevin Roach,” said Sherry Sikes.

Two bailiffs escorted a ‘Paul Bunyan-like’ figure to the witness stand.  Along with a huge, fluffy beard and shaved head he was hard and massive.  A distinct AB tattoo was visible on his right forearm.  This was Kevin Roach.

Barry ‘the Baron’ Mills sat on the second tier of the docket, wearing cheap, heavily tinted sunglasses.  His attorneys had advised against the sunglasses, telling him “they make you look sinister.  The prosecutor’s going to paint you black enough.  You don’t need to go along with it, help her out.”

That was the point as far as The Baron was concerned.  He wanted to appear sinister.  He wanted to emanate terror.  Maybe the fucking snitches and the jurors would get the message.  Don’t fuck with me!

So The Baron wore the sunglasses.

Now he took them off, so he could get a better look at Roach.  And so Roach could see his eyes as he glowered at Roach.

Roach noticed and glared back.

Judge Baxter noticed too.  “Mr. Mills,” he said.  “You have been warned against trying to intimidate witnesses with ‘the evil stare.’”

Bailiffs stood near The Baron.  They turned toward him, waiting to see how he would respond to the Judge’s words.

The Baron held Roach’s eyes a moment longer then put his sunglasses back on.

Roach had been a member of the Aryan Brotherhood.  In fact, he was a high-ranking Councilman, one of the elite shot-callers.  He took his orders directly from the Commissioners:  Mills, Bingham and Silverstein.

Now Roach was a rat, a snitch, a squealer, a defector.

Acutely violent and convicted of two murders, Roach had been transferred to the Supermax in Florence, because of his bad attitude.  Roach’s attitude was demonic.  He attacked guards and other inmates just “for fun.”  At ADX Florence, boredom and inactivity soon got to him and he told the feds – agents of the ATF – that he might be interested in “rolling over.”

The feds were ecstatic.  Roach was a big fish who was ready to swim upstream.  They had to keep him safe, because his fellow-inmates had a zero-tolerance threshold for snitches.  So the feds moved Roach to H Unit, an isolated area next door to the control room of the Supermax.  For a while, Roach had the run of the place, like his own suite in a hotel.  Naturally, the guards called it the Roach Motel.

Pretty soon, the feds moved another Aryan Brotherhood defector into H Unit. Brian Healy, who came from the SHU at Pelican Bay in California.  Healy had been singing the snitch’s song for the last two years.  He had a sweet deal.  If he cooperated and testified, his sentence would be reduced.  Eventually, he would get back to the real world.

The two snitches told the feds everything they knew:  about invisible ink made from urine, that magically re-appeared when heated; about writing in code; about a number of Aryan Brotherhood murder plots; and about Aryan Brotherhood connections with drug cartels in Latin America.  How the Brotherhood moved huge shipments of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and crystal meth around the country.

In return, Roach and Healy got VCRs and televisions, access to laptop computers and the internet, Pizza Hut pizza and Carl’s Jr. hamburgers, even porn videos.  And they got to walk freely in H Unit.

This is an excerpt from Blood In, Blood Out. You can order it on www.amazon.com

 

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