Members of criminal gangs are commonly motivated by greed and vengeance. However, the most dangerous individuals that I have encountered are motivated by ideological and theological beliefs. And members of the Aryan Brotherhood fit the latter category.

Although the Aryan Brotherhood adopted the symbol of the shamrock used by the Catholic St. Patrick to convert the pagan Celts, "the Brand" rejects Christianity and any hope of a heaven. Many members have embraced the pagan Celtic druid, or occult Nazi beliefs. Some boldly tattoo themselves with satanic symbols. Other AB members follow the ancient Norse religions and worship Odin and Thor.

In Viking warrior societies, dying in battle is the highest honor a man can attain. This belief system offers no heaven or salvation with death, but the promise of Valhalla, a place where worthy warriors go to prepare for yet another great battle, one that takes place at the end of time. But they will not win this battle. They will fight against the unbeatable snow giants and be allowed to again die in battle. This belief—coupled with cultural incorporations of the Celtic warrior "Picts" and "Berserkers"—has been utilized by the AB to produce this fanatical, sometimes suicidal, warrior mentality.

Streamlining Structure

In 1982, the Aryan Brotherhood sought to modernize its structure and streamline its ability to conduct criminal enterprises. Abandoning the group's original democratic structure, they established a nine-man council with a three-man presiding commission. The nine-man council made most corporate decisions with the three-men commission—comprised of Bobby Crane, Robert "Blinky" Griffin, and Wendell "Blue" Norris—having the final say. Under the old system AB members were allowed to freelance contract killings and extort from just about anyone they so desired. Many members joined just to kill African American inmates. Now, hits had to be sanctioned by the council and some Aryan Brotherhood members forsook the hate of Blacks for the love of green, money. Even more contrary to the Brotherhood, a rivalry festered between "Blinky" Griffin and "Blue" Norris on the ruling commission.

One AB dropout called the new Aryan Brotherhood the "Heroin Brotherhood" and said that they went into "Crip mode" soon after the formation of the council. The leadership put an end to the war with the rival Black Guerrilla Family (BGF). They were selling "Tookie" Williams' (Crip) and "Ray Ray" Browning's (Blood & BGF) dope and murdering white men aligned to either Binky or Blue. The final straw occurred when the AB commission voted to murder the innocent father of my informant, an Aryan Brotherhood defector, Steve Barnes.

Gruesome Murders

The convict code says the killing of innocent parties—wives, children, and parents—is wrong. But in 1983, with Council members Big Mike Thompson and Clifford Smith objecting, Curtis Price was dispatched to murder Steve's father Richard Barnes, as well as a female AB associate who assisted Price. Price's success in his mission came at a cost, with fallout including the defections of several influential Brand members. Thompson and Smith, in particular, subsequently debriefed with CDC gang investigators and became informants for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Major Crimes Bureau, Prison Gang Unit. My predecessors Sgt. "Barney" Barnett and Dep. Harry Harryman laid the framework using these informants for the case that became the ATF's 2002 RICO indictments against the Aryan Brotherhood leadership.

Aryan Brotherhood defectors also told us of the murder of Richard Barnes, and an earlier 1977 quadruple murder in Laurelwood, Ore., where a witness against the Hell's Angels Vallejo Nomad Chapter President, Odis "Buck" Garrett, was murdered.

In a 1995 trial of "Bugeye" Bob McClure that Hell's Angels International President Sonny Barger attended, the sordid details came out. The incriminating facts played themselves out, as well, in "Buck" Garrett's trial, in which the AB informants became key witnesses.

The Hell's Angels had originally contracted the Aryan Brotherhood to kill a "snitch" named Margo Compton. But adhering to their principle against killing innocents, the AB refused to be involved in the murder of Margo's six-year-old twins. McClure had no such compunction, torturing Compton and killing her children in front of her before killing a male guest and Compton herself. Owing to the testimony offered by AB informants, Garrett and McClure were convicted for the four murders.

But Aryan Brotherhood members can be demonstrably hardcore when they want to be.

In one 24-hour period in 1983, two AB members escaped from their handcuffs while being escorted by guards and killed two guards in separate incidents within the Federal Bureau of Prisons system at Marion, Ill. In April 1987, the AB stabbed two guards at Tehachapi Prison in retaliation for the shooting of AB member James Redinbaugh while he was attacking another inmate.

Romancing female staff and other useful females is another specialty of the Brand. In June of 1987, AB member Phil Fortman's girlfriend, Judy Box, was convicted of a conspiracy to murder a CDC prison guard by providing information that led to the shooting of the guard as he drove home from work. The guard had shot Aryan Brotherhood member Art Ruffo to stop his attack on another inmate while in prison. Box had used her position at the Franchise Tax Board to access information on the prison guard.

In 1987, Aryan Brotherhood Commissioner "Blue" Norris—angry about his feud with fellow AB Commissioner Bobby Griffin—claimed that he had dissolved the AB council and the commission and that he was now solely in charge. He claimed that anyone who objected was to be placed on the AB hit list to be murdered, or "in the hat."

In 1998, information obtained in a wire tap investigation identified another Hell's Angels and Aryan Brotherhood police source. Deputy District Attorney Bryan Ray Kazarian of the Orange County District Attorney's Gang Prosecution unit was exposed and charged with criminal conspiracy for divulging information in a major methamphetamine distribution ring.

In January of 2001, two Presa Canario "Dogs of War" owned by Aryan Brotherhood member Paul "Cornfed" Schneider attacked and killed lacrosse coach Diane Whipple in the hallway outside her San Francisco apartment. The dogs were purchased with monies won by Schneider in nuisance suits against the prison system. Schneider, born in 1962, was "adopted" by the two attorneys who had possession of the dogs, Attorneys Robert and Marjorie Knoller. Because of the attorney-client privilege, they could correspond with "Cornfed" without their letters having to be searched by the prison staff. After the death of Whipple, a search warrant check of this material revealed pornographic photos and drawings of Marjorie and the dogs.

Like those "Dogs of War," members of the Aryan Brotherhood are kept in isolated single cells. The reason for this is the continued internal fighting and purging that has recently resulted in AB cellmates killing one another in their cells.

A few years ago Wendell "Blue" Norris paid off his drug debts and said good bye to comrades. Then, to save his AB brothers from having to murder him, Norris disemboweled himself in a type of Aryan "Hara-kiri" while alone and apart from the one other inmate on the exercise yard, with a large jail-made knife.

RICO Prosecutions

Over the past few years, the Aryan Brotherhood has been charged in RICO prosecutions in Los Angeles and Orange County. The BATF and the U.S Attorney, Gregory Jessner, have claimed victories in these cases.

In the Los Angeles indictment alone, 23 of the defendants were eligible for the federal death sentence. This would be the only real significant sentence to members of this "lifers club" who are doing "all day" anyway. Not one death sentence was obtained. Those that were convicted were given time added to the already lengthy or life long commitments in prisons where the Aryan Brotherhood members are tyrant kings.

This RICO failure wasted efforts and resources, and exposed our tactics and knowledge while needlessly jeopardizing informants and witnesses.

It did little to damage the Aryan Brotherhood.

Author

Richard Valdemar
Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

View Bio

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

View Bio
0 Comments