File photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Years-long probe into Texas white supremacist gangs ends with 89th and final conviction

A judge in north Texas handed down the 89th and final conviction in a yearslong investigation into the criminal activity of several white supremacist gangs in north Texas.

U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle handed down a 20-year prison sentence to Jeramy Weatherall, 29, of Dallas. He pleaded guilty in March to one count of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute the drug.

Weatherall was the last defendant in a series of prosecutions stemming from a 2013 probe that targeted members of various white supremacist gangs — including the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas — selling drugs in the north Texas area.

The defendants were members of ABT and other violent organized crime groups such as the Aryan Circle, the “Dirty White Boys,” the “White Knights,” among others.

“Each of these gangs are organized crime groups, but in recent years, the white supremacy ideology of each of these groups has taken a backseat to traditional criminal ventures, such as drug-dealing,” according to a statement on the Justice Department’s site.

Of the 91 people charged in connection with the probe, 89 have been convicted. One remains at large and is believed to be in Mexico, while one died before the trial began, the statement added.

In all, officials said those convicted were linked to 956 kilograms of methamphetamine, “with a conservative street value of just under $10 million.”

U.S. Attorney John Parker singled out ABT and the Aryan Circle in the statement Monday, saying that the dozens of convictions meant the two largest groups of this kind “have essentially been decimated in north Texas.” Parker then noted the work of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Dallas Police Department in the case.

Lisa Slimak, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas, told the NewsHour that the office “feels strongly” that the “free-world,” or “street,” ABT population in Dallas has been decimated.

“It remains a strong presence in prisons and ABT members are released everyday, but the free-world structure has been destroyed and their ability to work collectively and efficiently has been severely reduced,” she wrote in an email.

While Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League considers the 89 convictions to be a success, he does not think it necessarily means the case has “decimated” those white supremacist groups. The best authorities can do is hinder or slow down the criminal activities of the ABT or the Aryan Circle, he said. This is because these groups, for much of their history, have primarily conducted all manner of crimes — from drugs, burglary rings and identity theft to hate crimes and murder — in prison.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center points out that a 2012 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates ABT membership in the Texas prison system at 2,600 members, with another 180 in federal prisons. Other estimates, SPLC says, places the total number at 3,500, including 1,000 members out on the streets.

Convicted ABT members who go to prison could continue their illegal activity there; the group was founded in the early 1980s by people within the prison system, Pitcavage said.

“Putting an ABT gang member behind bars does not have the same effect as putting a KKK member behind bars,” Pitcavage said.

ABT and other white supremacist prison gangs didn’t really have a street presence until the 21st century, he added, saying that they are just as active on the streets as they are behind bars.

Police and prison officials have wrestled with how to adequately contain these white supremacist prison gangs. Their solutions have had varying degrees of success, from enacting what’s essentially solitary confinement to breaking up the gangs and shipping members to other states, Pitcavage said.

“There’s no perfect solution to dealing with this problem,” he said. “You have to keep grinding at it.”

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