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Prison Bars Didn't Stop Gang's Reach

Former Aryan brother, a witness in racketeering trial, tells of broad `family' responsibilities.

April 14, 2006|Christopher Goffard | Times Staff Writer

The Aryan Brotherhood provided two-time convicted murderer Kevin Roach with "a sense of family" and conferred the prestige of membership in "the Special Forces" of prison gangs, he said. It also meant protection: No one touched a brother without incurring the wrath of every other gang member.

Still, Roach said, belonging carried a steep price -- killing without hesitation when ordered.

"You always had to answer the bell," he said Thursday in federal court.

Roach was chained to the floor behind the witness stand in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana as he testified in the racketeering trial of alleged Aryan Brotherhood leaders Barry "the Baron" Mills, T.D. "the Hulk" Bingham, Edgar "the Snail" Hevle and Christopher O. Gibson.

From the start of his probationary period with the gang on St. Patrick's Day 1990 to the time he defected from its upper ranks in 1998 and became a government informer, Roach said he acted as both strategist and enforcer for the gang.

Because of his rank, Roach is among the key defectors helping the government build its case against the alleged leaders of what the government calls one of the nation's deadliest, best-organized prison gangs.

Roach testified that while in federal prison in Marion, Ill., his duties for the Brotherhood included passing messages, attacking inmates who disrespected the gang and being the "designated driver." Because he didn't drink, he made sure gang members who drank homemade brew didn't hurt themselves.

Roach said failure to follow Brotherhood orders meant being put "in the hat" -- slang for being targeted for a hit. In the Brotherhood's early years, Roach said, an intended victim's name was written on a piece of paper and placed in a hat among blank pieces; the brother who drew the name had to do the murder.

Roach testified that in 1996, after he and Mills were transferred to the federal "supermax" federal penitentiary in Florence, Colo., they plotted to expand the Brotherhood's racketeering operation to the streets. They hatched a plan, he said, to recruit inmates with five years or less left on their sentences and train them to commit crimes, so upon release they could send money to those still behind bars.

In 1998, Roach wrote a coded letter to a released gang member who seemed to be straying from the fold. Roach urged him to give up the construction business and follow his dream of becoming a restaurateur.

In reality, Roach testified, he was ordering the gang member to start cooking up methamphetamine for sale, or he would be killed.

The failure of freed gang members to meet their obligations to brothers still inside proved frustrating to Mills, Roach said.

"There was a discussion of forming up a squad to do away with guys like that," said the bull-necked Roach, who spoke in a raspy Boston accent.

He said the Brotherhood killed one gang member for engaging in openly homosexual activity, and killed another inmate for informing to authorities. He said the Brotherhood provided protection for mob boss John Gotti in prison, and Mills hoped that Gotti would supply him with a good lawyer to handle his appeal on a murder conviction.

Roach said gang member John Greschner once bragged to him of murdering, on Brotherhood orders, Richard "Rhino" Andreasen for snitching.

Roach said he and Greschner were bonding.

"Murder stories," said Roach, "are part of the getting-to-know-each-other process."

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