Five Sentenced for Involvement in Aryan Brotherhood of Texas Racketeering Conspiracy

Five Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) gang members from Dallas were sentenced to prison this week for their roles in the ABT enterprise, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson and Acting Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Today, James Lawrence Burns, 44, and Kenneth Hancock, 34, high-ranking members in the ABT’s hierarchical structure, were ordered to serve respective terms of 20 and 15 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake. Yesterday, Dustin Harris, 30, and Christopher Morris, 39, were each ordered to serve 10 years in prison, while Clay Kirkland, 35, received a sentence of more than 11 years. An additional defendant – Bill Frank Weatherred, 29 ‘ will be sentenced tomorrow.

According to information presented in court, the six men were admitted members of ABT, a powerful race-based, statewide organization that operates inside and outside of state and federal prisons throughout Texas and the United States. Along with other ABT gang members and associates, they agreed to commit multiple acts of murder, robbery, arson, kidnapping and narcotics trafficking on behalf of the ABT gang. ABT gang members met on a regular basis at various locations throughout Texas to report on gang-related business, collect dues, commit disciplinary assaults against fellow gang members and discuss acts of violence against rival gang members, among other things.

The ABT was established in the early 1980s within the Texas prison system. The gang modeled itself after and adopted many of the precepts and writings of the Aryan Brotherhood, a California-based prison gang that was formed in the California prison system during the 1960s. Previously, the ABT was primarily concerned with the protection of white inmates and white supremacy/separatism, but over time, the ABT has expanded its criminal enterprise to include illegal activities for profit, according to court records.

Court documents allege that the ABT enforced its rules and promoted discipline among its members, prospects and associates through murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, arson, assault, robbery and threats against those who violate the rules or pose a threat to the enterprise. Members, and oftentimes associates, were required to follow the orders of higher-ranking members, often referred to as “direct orders.”

In order to be considered for ABT membership, a person must be sponsored by another gang member. Once sponsored, a prospective member must serve an unspecified term, during which he is referred to as a prospect, while his conduct is observed by the members of the ABT.

The defendants sentenced this week are six of 36 defendants convicted of conducting racketeering activity through the ABT criminal enterprise, among other charges. This Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case is being investigated by a multi-agency task force consisting of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; FBI; Homeland Security Investigations; Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Marshals Service; Bureau of Prisons; Texas Rangers; Texas Department of Public Safety; Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Office of Inspector General; Sheriff’s offices in Montgomery, Harris, Atascosa, Orange, Waller, Galveston and Tarrant Counties; Police Departments in Houston, Alvin, Carrollton, Mesquite, Baytown and Fort Worth; and District Attorney’s offices in Montgomery, Atascosa and Harris Counties.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ed Gallagher and Tim Braley for the Southern District of Texas and David Karpel of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.