Texas-Based Aryan Circle Prison Gang Leader Known as 'Aryan Prodigy' Sentenced Over Assault

Aryan Circle has spent decades growing into one of Texas' most feared prison gangs.
Aryan Circle has spent decades growing into one of Texas' most feared prison gangs. Photo by Damir Spanic, Creative Commons (Unsplash)
Threats. Brutal beatings. Meth deals. Murders. The Texas-based prison gang Aryan Circle, the second largest of its kind in the state, has spent more than three decades building a reputation as one of the most cutthroat white supremacist outfits behind bars.

But this week, federal authorities announced another victory against Aryan Circle. U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield sentenced Michael Martin, a 38-year-old Aryan Circle leader known as "Aryan Prodigy," to 87 months in a federal prison half a year after Martin pleaded guilty to assault resulting in serious bodily injury in aid of racketeering.

The more than seven-year sentence comes only three months after the feds delivered another blow to Aryan Circle. In July, three of the gang’s affiliates pleaded guilty on several federal charges related to assault and meth dealing.

According to court documents, Martin, who joined Aryan Circle in the early 2000s, ordered his subordinates to attack another member who planned on leaving the gang and joining a different group in October 2016.

The gang members confronted the man at a park in Tyler and "violently beat the victim, including kicking [him] in the head while he was on the ground," the U.S. Department of Justice in East Texas said in March. The man was so badly injured he had to receive medical treatment.

"The defendant’s violent actions demonstrate his commitment to a hateful and dangerous ideology," Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei said in a press release this week, adding that the "sentence shows that no gang is above the law."

As one of the top-five leaders in Aryan Circle, Martin made decisions and issued directives about "who to recruit and admit as members of the gang, who should be disciplined or removed for violating the AC rules, and which rival gangs the AC would fight," the DOJ's East Texas office said in the statement.

"Though their main motivations are those of an organized crime group, they live up to the hatred implicit in their white supremacist beliefs as well." - Anti-Defamation League

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Aryan Circle was founded in the mid-1980s as a breakaway from the larger, older Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. The group’s membership ballooned throughout the 1990s as Aryan Circle members waged war against rival gangs in lockup.

In 2007, Aryan Circle was linked to the murder of two police officers in Bastrop, Louisiana, according to the Anti-Defamation League watchdog. Meanwhile, the gang often goes after competing outfits in prison while hunting down and killing suspected informants and members they view as “weak links,” the ADL said in a report.

The ADL estimates that Aryan Circle commands a membership of some 1,400 people in federal prisons, state prisons and in the free world.

Although the bulk of the gang is in Texas, its reach stretches into other states. In October 2020, federal authorities announced the prosecution of 24 people, including several Aryan Circle members, on charges related to racketeering conspiracy, violent crimes in aid of racketeering, drug conspiracy and firearms trafficking in Texas and beyond.

Although much of the gang’s violence is linked to arms and drug dealing, the ADL notes that Aryan Circle members have committed a wide range of hate crimes against people of color and members of the LGBTQ community, among others.

“Though their main motivations are those of an organized crime group, they live up to the hatred implicit in their white supremacist beliefs as well,” an ADL report explains.
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Patrick Strickland is the news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's a former senior reporter at Al Jazeera English and has reported for the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.