Three KKK members worked at Florida prison, accused of murder plot

Three Ku Klux Klan members planned to kill a black inmate in Florida, according to the Florida Attorney General. 

(AP Photo/Mike Wintroath)
Members of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan gather on the steps of the Pulaski County Courthouse, Aug. 22, 1998, in Little Rock, Ark. Three Florida prison workers, who are KKK members, are charged with conspiracy to murder a black prison inmate.

Two current and one former prison employee who all belonged to the Ku Klux Klan planned to kill a black inmate as he was released in retaliation for a fight, officials said Thursday.

The three men — Thomas Jordan Driver, 25, David Elliot Morgan, 47, and 42-year-old Charles Thomas Newcomb — each were arrested Thursday on one state count of conspiracy to commit murder, according to a statement from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office.

Driver and Morgan are current employees of the Department of Corrections, and Newcomb is a former corrections employee. The state's statement says Driver had the fight with the inmate.

Bondi's office said the three were members of the Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The case will be prosecuted in Columbia County in north Florida. The State Attorney's office there did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The wide-ranging investigation included the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and various state and local agencies. The FBI's office in Jacksonville said it would not comment on an open investigation.

The charges for the three men mark the latest black eye for the Florida Corrections Department.

Last fall, DOC officials fired nearly 50 prison employees, including several over allegations that they punched and beat inmates.

The deaths of inmates Randall Jordan-Aparo and Darren Rainey also drew attention. Rainey, a mentally ill prisoner, was punished in 2012 with a shower so hot that his skin separated from his body. Jordan-Aparo was reportedly gassed while in a confinement cell.

Witnesses say guards at Dade Correctional Institution left Rainey alone for two hours in a locked, scalding hot shower as punishment for defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up. The warden at Dade Correctional was fired.

Last year, two members of the Fruitland Park Police Department in Florida resigned after allegations that they were members of the Ku Klux Klan. In 2009, the same police department dismissed an officer for being a member of the KKK. 

Later, the wife of one of the officers said that they were undercover and had been asked to infiltrate the group. The former Fruitland police chief denied he ordered any such investigation.

"Florida in general has a fairly large number of hate groups," Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that monitors and tracks hate groups, told ABC News last summer. "Once upon a time this was absolutely common. Right up through the 1960s there were very large numbers of police officers who were members of the Klan or largely sympathetic.”

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.