Racketeering Trial Begins for Aryan Brotherhood Leaders in California Prison Gang Case

The highly anticipated racketeering trial involving alleged leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood, a notorious prison gang, commenced in Sacramento on Monday. Prosecutors presented a comprehensive opening statement, outlining a web of prison murders, contraband smuggling, and wiretapped conversations that they claim will establish murder conspiracy charges against three defendants. Ronald Dean Yandell, William Sylvester, and Danny Troxell, inmates at California State Prison, Sacramento, are accused of wielding significant power within the white inmate hierarchy, allegedly capable of ordering murders and controlling drug sales with a mere utterance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Spencer, during his opening statement, emphasized the gang’s reputation for committing brutal murders, which allegedly fuels their control over drug trafficking and other illicit activities. Spencer highlighted how the gang’s members utilized contraband cellphones to hold conference calls, further solidifying their power. In one such conversation, Yandell allegedly reminded another Aryan Brotherhood member to maintain control and inquired about recent acts of violence.

Defense attorneys countered the prosecution’s claims, arguing that the trial would expose both prison corruption and government overreach. They suggested that personal motives were falsely attributed to the Aryan Brotherhood for several murders. Sean McClelland, Yandell’s attorney, dismissed the notion that one person could control violence and drug dealing across California’s chaotic prison system. He also raised doubts about the credibility of government witnesses, including former co-defendants seeking leniency.

The defense revealed the names of three gangsters-turned-informants expected to testify: Jeanna Quesenberry, Travis Burhop, and Donald “Popeye” Mazza. Mazza, a founder of the Orange County skinhead gang known as Public Enemy Number One (PENI), is believed to possess intimate knowledge of criminal activities both inside and outside of prison. However, Troxell’s lawyer argued that Mazza’s personal interest in a woman may influence his testimony.

Knut Johnson, representing Sylvester, admitted upfront that his client was responsible for the 2011 murder of Ronald Richardson, a skinhead gang member. However, Johnson contended that the killing was unrelated to the Aryan Brotherhood and involved a known child molester. Similarly, prosecutors alleged that the 2015 stabbing death of Hugo “Yogi” Pinell, attributed to Aryan Brotherhood members, was the culmination of a decades-long murder conspiracy. McClelland, Yandell’s attorney, argued that Pinell was universally despised by prisoners, irrespective of their affiliations.

The trial also featured testimony from several prison guards, primarily focusing on the 2011 stabbing of Richardson by Sylvester and another inmate. Retired corrections officer Machelle Calderon described taking photographs of Richardson’s body and was later shown the actual murder weapon, which was passed around to the jurors.

Author: CrimeDoor

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