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Aryan Brotherhood Leaders Convicted of Murder

Four leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang are convicted on charges of murder, conspiracy and racketeering. The verdict, delivered in a In Santa Ana, Calif., courtroom, was hailed as a victory for federal prosecutors.

The charges are part of an ongoing effort to curb the group's violent and racist activities behind bars.

Two of the four gang members, Barry Mills and Tyler Bingham, could get the death penalty. The other two defendants may receive life sentences.

The four defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit murder to extend their control over drug trafficking, gambling and other prisoners. The government also accused them of fomenting a race war behind bars.

As the verdicts were read, defendants Barry "The Baron" Mills, the gang's leader, and Tyler "The Hulk" Bingham, Christopher Gibson and Edgar "Snail" Hevle barely reacted.

The picture of the Aryan brotherhood painted by witnesses was of a particularly ruthless gang, which ordered murders and assaults with notes written in code -- and sometimes in an invisible ink made from fruit juice or urine.

But gang members apparently saw themselves differently, citing as their inspiration thinkers from Neitzche to Machiavelli. One witness said there was a formal oath: Integrity, loyalty and silence comprise the principle ethics of honor, it began.

The defense argued that their clients had only banded together to protect themselves in the violent and racially divided prison system. They also contended that the government witnesses were perjurers whose testimony was bought with cash or promises of parole.

This case was particularly complex, requiring the jury to answer nearly 80 questions. It's also believed to be one of the largest federal capital cases in the United States.

Hevley and Gibson will be sentenced on October 23. They could receive life in prison. Mills and Bingham, his top lieutenant, could be sentenced to death for ordering the murders of two African-American inmates. The penalty phase begins August 15.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."