Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Investigators focus on Aryan Brotherhood Texas link in Kaufman County prosecutor's murder

KAUFMAN, TX -- Local law enforcement officials at first seemed to down play a possible link between the murder of Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse on Jan. 31 and threats from the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, but the violent white supremacist prison group now appears to be the main focus of the multi-agency investigation that has drawn a small army of law enforcement officials and reporters to the rural area.

On the day of the 57-year-old Hasse's death in a courthouse parking lot as he headed for work, the Federal Bureau of Investigation of Houston released a statement announcing the guilty pleas of two members of the white supremacist organization. Hasse was gunned down by two masked suspects who apparently easily escaped from the small town.

At the conclusion of the statement, the FBI credited a multi-agency task force for securing indictments in October 2012 against 34 ABT members that named the Kaufman County, Texas District Attorney's Office. The two ABT members, Ben Christian "Tuff" Dillon, 40, of Houston, and James Marshall "Dirty" Meldrum, 40, of Dallas, entered their guilty pleas to conspiracy in racketeering.

In December 2012 the Texas Department of Public Safety issued an alert that the ABT planned to retaliate against the 20 federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies that helped secure the indictments in Houston.

The other agencies named in the FBI statement were the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; FBI; U.S. Marshals Service; Federal Bureau of Prisons; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations; Texas Rangers; Texas Department of Public Safety; Montgomery County, Texas Sheriff's Office; Houston Police Department Gang Division; Texas Department of Criminal Justice Office of Inspector General; Harris County, Texas Sheriff's Department; Tarrant County, Texas Sheriff's Department; Atascosa County, Texas Sheriff's Office; Orange County, Texas Sheriff's Office; Waller County, Texas Sheriff's Office; Fort Worth, Texas Police Department; Alvin, Texas Police Department; Carrollton, Texas Police Department; Montgomery County, Texas, District Attorney's Office; Atascosa County, Texas District Attorney's Office.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and their activities, has identified the ABT as "particularly violent."

The Aryan Brotherhood is a 50-year-old large, nationwide prison gang that is "infamous for its violence and its sprawling criminal empire," according to the law center. Members usually join the white supremacist group in prison, and they continue their involvement for life outside of prison walls as well. Leaders of the groups often direct activities from their prison cells.

ABT is known to be involved in illegal drug traffic, and its members will work with groups like the Mexican Mafia and other ethnic groups it normally disparages in mutual criminal enterprises, according to the law center. In addition to drug trafficking, the group's other illegal activities include extortion. Members are kept in line through threats of violence.

Although the Aryan Brotherhood makes up only 1 percent of the national prison population, it is responsible for 18 percent of prison murders, according to the law center, which cites FBI data in most of its statistics.

The Aryan Brotherhood prison gang formed in California and spread to Texas in about 1980, according to the law center. Membership in the organization reportedly requires a year's candidacy, and a murder or other violent crime is generally required for full membership.

The law center has documented at least 10 violent crimes committed by members of the ABT since 2001, including the racially-motivated murder of James Byrd Jr. in 2010 in Jasper, Texas, when he was dragged to death behind a pickup truck. The Texas hate crime law is named after Byrd.

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