Leaders of Aryan Brotherhood prison gang charged in killings

The charges detail five slayings and accuse an attorney of helping smuggle contraband to aid the gang

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang were charged Thursday with directing killings and drug smuggling from within California's most secure prisons, U.S. prosecutors said.

The charges detail five slayings and accuse an attorney of helping smuggle drugs and cellphones to aid the white supremacist gang.

Prosecutors say a longtime leader of a rival black gang was killed just days after he was released from decades of solitary confinement.

A total of 16 Aryan Brotherhood members and associates are accused of running the criminal enterprise using contraband cellphones, encrypted chats, text messages, multimedia messages and email.

Despite its racist philosophy, the Aryan Brotherhood had a drug smuggling partnership with the Mexican Mafia, prosecutors said.

Seven people outside prison were charged with assisting the Aryan Brotherhood in activities in Las Vegas and as far east as Missouri and South Dakota.

Sacramento-based U.S. attorney McGregor Scott called the charges "a significant blow to the leadership of a violent criminal enterprise run from inside California prisons."

"The charges allege multiple murders of those who run afoul of the gang, as well as an active drug trafficking operation that spans multiple counties and states," he said in a statement.

The complaint charges nine current inmates with racketeering conspiracy and other charges following a five-year investigation.

Prosecutors say inmate Daniel "Danny" Troxell, 66, a convicted killer serving a life sentence, and fellow Aryan Brotherhood leader Todd Ashker formed an unusual cease-fire alliance with leaders of other blood-rival gangs to promote a lawsuit seeking the release of prisoners from solitary confinement.

Black Guerilla Family leader Hugo Pinell, a killer with ties to the 1960s and 1970s black revolutionary movement, was among those released after 45 years in isolation, authorities said. They say two Aryan Brotherhood associates killed the 71-year-old Pinell in 2015 days after he was moved to a Sacramento-area prison.

Pinell, nicknamed "Yogi Bear," became infamous a generation ago as one of the San Quentin 6, helping to slit the throat of prison guards during a failed 1971 escape attempt that left six dead.

His slaying four years ago triggered a riot that sent 11 prisoners to outside hospitals with stab wounds.

Troxell, Ashker and Pinell have all denied being gang members.

The charges allege that cellmates Ronald "Renegade" Yandell, 56, and William Sylvester, 51, used smuggled cellphones to direct heroin and methamphetamine trafficking operations in California

Yandell, serving a life sentence for a double murder, is described as one of the gang's three-member leadership commission, as is Troxell.

Authorities have been trying to bring down the Aryan Brotherhood — also known as The Brand — for decades.

The gang was formed by white inmates in the mid-1960s and has a policy of "blood in, blood out," holding that full members must kill to gain entry and can only leave when they die, though authorities said there are exceptions. Members who don't kill when ordered to do so risk being slain themselves.

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