SANTA ANA, Calif., July 22 (Reuters) – A judge preparing for a massive racketeering trial against the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang told defense lawyers on Friday they could summon a heavily guarded federal prisoner as a witness but he would come to court under exceptional security.
U.S. District Judge David Carter set a date of Jan. 27 for the start of jury selection in the trial.
Federal prosecutors claim the Aryan Brotherhood, a white prison gang that sprang up in California’s San Quentin in the 196Os, has become a criminal syndicate that controls heroin and gambling within a large part of the nation’s prison system and enforces its will through murder and intimidation.
Carter said defense lawyers could call Tommy Silverstein as a witness but warned the notorious Aryan Brotherhood leader known as “Terrible Tom” would be shackled in court “just like a ‘Silence of the Lambs’ character.”
Silverstein killed a guard in 1983 at Marion federal prison in Illinois after slipping his handcuffs with the help of another gang member and pulling a concealed foot-long knife.
Silverstein, who has also been convicted of killing three other inmates, is the nation’s most heavily guarded prisoner, according to prosecutors. He is confined to a special cellblock in the basement of Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas.
“He will come out here in chains and sit there in chains,” Carter said in a pretrial hearing on Friday.
The Aryan Brotherhood, also known as the Brand, is being prosecuted in California under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the same law used against Mafia crime families.
Under an indictment unsealed in 2002, prosecutors have sought the death penalty against 23 Brand members, including Barry Mills, a founder.
The case ranks as the largest death penalty prosecution in U.S. history, and officials say security is a major concern.
Carter warned the gang leadership against trying to intimidate former gang members testifying against it with “the evil stare” during trial.
Mills was indicted for conspiracy to commit murder as well as the 1979 execution-style slaying of another inmate in a federal prison in Georgia.
Prosecutors charge Mills stabbed inmate John Marzloff to death for allegedly cheating Silverstein in a drug deal.
The indictment accuses the AB of carrying out 16 slayings and conspiring to commit another 16. The gang is also charged with waging “war” against the DC Blacks prison gang in the 1990s and “engaging in a “conspiracy to murder black inmates.”
Defense lawyers have argued the prosecution case hinges on tainted testimony from AB “dropouts” who cooperated with investigators in order to secure special treatment at a unit of a federal “supermax” prison in Colorado.