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Slayings in Texas put light on gang

AP
The family of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, comfort each other during their funeral services at the First Baptist Church of Wortham Friday, April 5, 2013, in Wortham, Texas. The couple was found shot to death Saturday in their house near Forney, about 20 miles east of Dallas. No arrests have been made. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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By The Los Angeles Times
Friday, April 5, 2013, 9:51 p.m.
 

KAUFMAN, Texas — They burned the gang's tattoo off the arm of one man who failed to follow orders. Another new member was kidnapped, shot and killed for disloyalty; gang leaders wanted his finger severed as a trophy.

These are just two of the incidents traced to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a white supremacist prison gang whose motto is “God forgives, brothers don't.”

Some fear that the gang may be involved in the recent slayings in north Texas of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, his wife, Cynthia, and fellow prosecutor Mark Hasse. Hasse was fatally shot outside the Kaufman County Courthouse the same January day federal authorities publicly thanked county legal officials for their help in prosecuting members of the Brotherhood.

After the federal indictment against 34 alleged Brotherhood leaders and other members in November, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a confidential bulletin that the gang was plotting retaliation.

The bulletin said, in part, “High-ranking members are involved in issuing orders to inflict ‘mass casualties or death' to law enforcement officials who were involved in cases where Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (members) are facing life sentences or the death penalty.”

One of the federal prosecutors assigned to handle the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas indictment has withdrawn from the case, citing “security reasons.”

“What we're seeing is that gangs that were for many years confined to prisons are increasingly spilling onto streets around the country,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas is arguably the most violent white supremacist prison gang in the U.S. right now.”

Some who are familiar with the gang's history are skeptical that the Brotherhood targeted the prosecutors, noting that such high-profile victims would bring unwanted attention and that the attacks didn't seem consistent with the gang's self-styled sense of honor.

“I found the murder of the wife to be slightly out of character,” said Houston-based lawyer Richard O. Ely II. “These are macho guys. These people are into manly things, being tough — that's why their punishments are beat-downs. They don't do drive-by shootings.”

And though it sounds counterintuitive for a gang known for violence, some Aryan Brotherhood of Texas members have taken umbrage at being linked to the killings.

“There is some grumbling among the ABT from sources I have. They feel like they're being blamed for this, that they're being set up,” said Terry Pelz, a Houston-based criminal justice consultant who worked for more than 20 years in the Texas prison system.

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