SANTA ANA, Calif. A jury convicted four leaders of a white-supremacist prison gang today on charges they used murder and intimidation to protect their drug-dealing operations behind bars.
Barry The Baron Mills, Tyler The Hulk Bingham, Edgar The Snail Hevle and Christopher Overton Gibson were the first defendants to stand trial in the federal racketeering case aimed at dismantling the feared Aryan Brotherhood.
They all were convicted under Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, and offenses known as Violent Crime In Aid of Racketeering. Mills and Bingham are eligible for the death penalty.
Mills, Bingham and Hevle also were convicted of a murder count for the killing of Arva Lee Ray, a prisoner slain at the Lompoc, Calif., penitentiary in 1989.
Mills and Bingham were acquitted of a murder count in the death of another inmate, William McKinney.
The defendants were charged in an indictment detailing 32 murders and attempted murders involving members of the Aryan Brotherhood over three decades.
During the four-month trial, the jury heard testimony from convicted killers, former gang members and jailhouse informants. Some testified they had been involved in murder plots hatched by the gang to kill those who violated its rules.
Defense attorneys countered that prosecutors built their case on a parade of perjurers who were promised money and reduced prison sentences for their testimony.
They said the defendants had to seek membership in the gang as a way to survive in the violent world of prison.
It is one of the largest death penalty cases in U.S. history. Of the 40 people originally arrested, more than a dozen could get the death penalty if convicted. Nineteen defendants struck plea bargains and one died. Two more trials are scheduled for this fall in Los Angeles.
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