What is the Aryan Brotherhood Of Texas?

The death of two prosecutors in Texas has focused new attention on the Aryan Brotherhood. Mike McLelland and his wife were murdered on March 30 after their around-the-clock protection had been eased. The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas is at the center of a large federal case that involves racketeering, murder, kidnapping and other various crimes. On April 2 Jay Hileman, an assistant U.S. attorney in Houston, withdrew himself from the case citing security concerns. 

Terry Sillers, 49, was a general in the ABT until his dramatic capture by police in 2011. Sillers has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, and that has become a problem for the Brotherhood. Cooperating with law enforcement is a crime punishable by death in the ABT. Sillers is unquestionably a marked man. He is currently hidden away, not even his attorney Katherine Scardino knows where he is, saying: "I don't know where Mr. Sillers is, he's under protective custody, and I don't really want to know.”

Thirty-four alleged members of ABT were indicted by a federal grand jury on November 9, 2012. Ten of the individuals charged are eligible for the death penalty. The remaining 24 defendants face life in prison. Among those indicted were four ABT generals. The Federal Bureau of Investigation worked closely with state and local officials for years to build up the case against the ABT. In a press release detailing the crimes, FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen L. Morris said:

This multi-year investigation and indictment clearly targets the worst-of-the-worst among the ABT. This effort not only exemplifies the level of effort the FBI and our law enforcement partners will expend to prevent prison gang racism and criminal activity from poisoning our communities. It sends a clear message that we will relentlessly pursue and prosecute the leaders and members of these criminal enterprises regardless of where they lay their heads.”

The Daily Beast reports that the prison gang was formed in the 1980s and now has more than 2,500 members. The gang is ruled by five generals who each control different branches of the prison. The ABT is not to be associated with the Aryan Brotherhood, they are two separate enterprises. The Aryan Brotherhood began in the San Quentin Prison somewhere around the 1960s. ABT molded themselves after the California organization but were denied admittance into it. The ABT branch promises protection to white inmates who join the gang. Once released from prison members are expected to continue to help with the criminal enterprise and recruit new members. Admittance into the Brotherhood is allowed only after sponsorship by another member and following a succesful one-year probationary period. The ABT has funded their operations through the trafficking of meth and cocaine. 

Photo of ABT gang affiliated tattoo, courtesy of bexar.org/da

While females are not allowed admittance into the ABT, they help to facilitate communication between the gang. Female conspirators are known as “featherwoods.” The group operates under a blind-faith commitment to its leaders, meaning no orders are to be questioned. Members of the ABT sport the tattoo “God Forgives. Brother’s Don’t.” Kills and hits are ordered by the leaders which are then carried out by the members of the gang. Members who do not carry out orders will find themselves subject to painful and violent retribution. Allegiance to the gang is paramount, which is why Sillers now finds himself in the witness protection program.

No material connection has been found between the ABT and the murders of the two prosecutors. If a connection is found it signals an unprecedented move by the criminal organization who had not previously targeted law enforcement officials. 

Below are indictments of Steven Cooke and Terry Sillers:

Cooke Indictment by Houston Chronicle

 

Sillers Indictment by Houston Chronicle