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Behind prosecutor's withdrawal, 'Aryan' prison gang's legacy of violence

A US Attorney has pulled out of a major racketeering case aimed at the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas prison gang. This follows the killing of several officials who had gone after such gangs.

By Staff writer / April 3, 2013

A wreath of flowers in honor of slain District Attorney Mike McClelland is placed in front of Kaufman County Courthouse in Kaufman, Texas.

Richard W. Rodriguez/REUTERS

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The withdrawal of an assistant US attorney from a major racketeering case in Texas appears tied to personal concerns about a white supremacist prison gang's propensity for violence.

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Brad Knickerbocker is a staff writer and editor based in Ashland, Oregon.

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The case involves charges against 34 members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a group investigators say may be tied to the shooting death of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife in their home Saturday, as well as to the death two months earlier of county prosecutor Mark Hasse, who was shot and killed in a parking lot near the county courthouse.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, describes the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) as “arguably the most violent white supremacist prison gang out there.”

"It is said to be one of the gangs that live by the 'blood-in, blood-out' code, meaning that you can only get into ABT by carrying out some kind of attack," Mr. Potok told CNN. "And similarly ... you can only leave in a body bag."

The all-white gang formed some time in 1980s, first as a form of self-protection inside prisons, then as a criminal enterprise beyond prison walls with a military structure. It’s believed to have about 4,000 members, including many who have finished their sentences and are out of prison.

“Unlike [Branch Davidian leader] David Koresh and his sheeplike followers (and other sects based on religious fanaticism), these are battle-hardened and death-tested men (many of them … with extensive military experience) who are not set on dying for some kind of religious cause; their thing is that, when the situation calls for it, they’re killers,” writes a former prison inmate on the Daily Beast website. “They’re not into dying – except to protect the honor of the Brotherhood.”

“They’re also sincere in their belief that many members of law enforcement are kindred spirits, right-wingers who understand their hatreds, loss of hegemony, and rabid determination to protect whatever power the white man has left in America,” writes the former inmate – anonymously because of the potential for violent retribution. “And those who don’t buy into their hateful rhetoric they perceive as being weak-kneed sob sisters who will willingly mongrelize and sell out their proud white heritage. Truly, everyone who is not with them is against them.”

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