Longform

Still an Aryan Blood Brother

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Last month, Jameton struck a plea bargain with prosecutors. He agreed to plead guilty to both murders and receive two concurrent life sentences if the Dallas District Attorney's Office would drop the murder charges against McClellan. The rest of his crew is awaiting trial, which could begin this spring.

Jameton first spoke with me last November at the Dallas County Jail. We met twice more, over several hours, before he was transferred to Huntsville in December. During our conversations, he admitted to his participation in both murders. He talked about his childhood, why he joined the Aryan Brotherhood and why he was willing to take full responsibility for his crimes.

He showed no emotion when he described how he had killed Clark—and why. He seemed somewhat disturbed, however, about the part he played in disposing of Taylor's body.

"I don't get off on people's pain," he told me. "I might be homicidal; I've killed people. But you would kill people for certain reasons—to protect your family, to save someone's life. My morals are just different than yours."

The Aryan Brotherhood began in San Quentin in 1964 and has since mutated into more than a dozen prison-born white supremacist gangs including the Nazi Low-Riders, Public Enemy Number 1 and the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. These groups use race as a recruiting tool and as the basis of a twisted ideology. They formed in prisons as a means of survival and have since evolved into organized crime syndicates that operate both in and out of prison.

The original Aryan Brotherhood is especially brutal. As a federal case recently prosecuted in Los Angeles revealed, the gang maintains order through beatings, blood oaths, hangings, stabbings and decapitations. The point, in the end, is to gain power and money. In prison, power could be an office job instead of working in the fields; money is made through extortion rackets, pimping and smuggled contraband.

The Texas prison system, which houses more prison-born gangs than any other state except California, had, until the early 1980s, essentially one gang—and it operated with the blessing of the state. While not a gang in name, the mostly white building tenders, or BTs, ran the cellblocks the way any gang would—with baseball bats and knives. Prison guards did not enter the cellblocks without their escort. The system, both medieval and Old South, saved the state money, and if there were abuses along the way, that was the cost of keeping order.

That ended in 1980, when federal Judge William Wayne Justice ordered the state to change the system. He did so with a warning. The state needed to hire new guards, he said, and if it didn't, prison gangs would fill the power vacuum.

Justice was right. Suddenly white inmates, whom the BT system had protected for years, were the minority, thanks largely to newly implemented drug laws that disproportionately locked up blacks and Latinos. To protect themselves, white prison gangs began to organize. The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, which had permission from the original California-based Aryan Brotherhood to form, would become the largest and the most ruthless. In 1983 and 1984, 52 inmates were killed in Texas prison gang violence.

"A lot of those murders were committed by the Aryan Brotherhood, which was seeking to establish itself," says Terry Pelz, a former Texas Department of Criminal Justice warden who worked at the Retrieve Unit. "I saw convicts die in front of me. Eventually, we learned how to confirm gang members and we separated them, and the violence abated."

Now in its second generation, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas is the fourth-largest prison-born gang in Texas. There are an estimated 400 members in the state, with 225 in the Dallas area.

"They are an organized entity, with a blood-in, blood-out oath, and are working against us completely," says Sig Sanchez, who tracks prison gangs for TDCJ. "They hate us. Any policies we put in place to protect offenders, they'll go against. Wherever they can make money, wherever they can cause problems, they'll do it."

While the Texas prison system has found ways to mitigate the damage the gang inflicts, they cannot keep its leaders from ordering hits from prison. Even more alarming, the ABT has spread outside prison walls. Its second generation includes members born and bred into the gang.

"In a sense, they are like clans," says Mark Pitcavage, who tracks white supremacist gangs for the Anti-Defamation League. "They refer to each other as family and tell each other that they love each other...They build allegiance to the group that is stronger than anything else."

Since 1985, when TDCJ officials seized letters outlining plans to kill 50 of the gang's enemies on the outside, the ADL has been compiling a greatest hits list of the gang's criminal activity beyond prison walls. Highlights include the '91 stabbing of a black Marine in Brazoria County, death threats sent in '97 to a Bexar County district judge and the '99 stabbing of a black inmate in a Bowie County Jail. They have also partnered with other prison gangs, such as the Mexican Mafia, to move drugs and guns and to carry out murder plots across Texas.

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Jesse Hyde
Contact: Jesse Hyde