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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.

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In an e-mail Tuesday, Assistant US Attorney Jay Hileman notified lawyers involved in the statewide racketeering case that he was off the case, Richard O. Ely II, a Houston-based defense attorney who is representing one of the 34 defendants, told the Dallas Morning News.

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

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“It’s shocking because he’s not the kind of guy that I would think that would back away from a challenge,” said Brent Mayr, another defense attorney in the racketeering case. “It would lead me to believe that there are some valid concerns.”

In December, the Texas Department of Public Safety warned that the Aryan Brotherhood could be conducting surveillance against law enforcement officers as part of planned retaliation against those who helped secure the indictments, the Dallas newspaper reports. Since the investigation into the Aryan Brotherhood began in 2008, more than 60 defendants from across the state have been charged and more indictments are expected.

Charges include murder as well as drug dealing. Several defendants have already agreed to testify against fellow gang members.

The pattern in Texas appears to be the same as in Colorado, where evidence points to former state prison inmate Evan Ebel – a member of another white supremacist prison gang, 211 Crew, also known as the Brotherhood of the Aryan Alliance – as the shooter in the recent death of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements as well as of a pizza delivery man. A few days later, Mr. Ebel was killed in a shootout with police in Texas.

Mr. Clements had begun cracking down on such gangs since taking over the Colorado prison system two years ago. In Ebel's case it appears he was paroled four years early due to a clerical error and removed the ankle bracelet meant to track his movements – a step that authorities failed to act upon in time.

Over the last century, 14 prosecutors have been killed, according to news reports and statistics kept by the National District Attorneys Association, reports the Associated Press. At least eight of them were targeted in the line of duty.

On Wednesday, a sheriff known for cracking down on the drug trade in southern West Virginia's coalfields was fatally shot. A suspect also was shot and was in custody.

The anonymous former inmate writing in the Daily Beast traces the current spate of violence tied to prison gangs back to the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

“If these recent killings represent the Brotherhood’s twisted form of retribution, the fact that it has taken so long to begin is all the more chilling,” he writes. “To me this would demonstrate a hard-nosed determination that all citizens should find frightening. We shouldn’t be whistling past the graveyard on these killings.”

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