SANTA ANA, Calif. – A former member of a white supremacist prison gang testified Friday that he was slipped two bullets and ordered by an alleged gang kingpin to hide them until they could be used to kill a black inmate who had assaulted the late mob leader John Gotti.
Kevin Roach took the stand for a second day to testify in one of the largest capital punishment cases in U.S. history, aimed at the leadership of the Aryan Brotherhood gang.
Roach said another inmate slipped him one bullet by pushing it under the door of a prison library. The inmate, also a brotherhood member, told him that alleged gang leader Barry "The Baron" Mills would soon contact him and tell him about a planned hit on Walter Johnson, an inmate who had punched Gotti in the eye.
At the time, Gotti was in prison in Marion, Ill., while Mills and Roach were imprisoned in Florence, Colo.
Gotti had in the past paid the Aryan Brotherhood to protect him in prison, Roach testified. Mills ordered gang members to stop protecting Gotti in 1994 because the mob leader hadn't followed through on a promise to help Mills find an attorney to appeal a decades-old murder conviction, Roach said.
But in 1997, Gotti allegedly offered to pay to have Johnson killed, and Mills agreed to take the offer. Roach didn't specify how much Gotti offered to pay, but in previous testimony another former gang member said Gotti had offered $500,000.
Mills "told us that he wanted us to accept the contract and he wanted me to send word to all the brothers because John Gotti was willing to pay a good sum," Roach testified. "He wanted to show that the Aryan Brotherhood could get anyone, anywhere and ... that shooting someone in a maximum security prison would make an impact on the prison population."
The gang never was able to carry out the hit on Johnson, Roach said. Gotti died in prison in 2002.
Roach, who is serving two life sentences for murder, left the gang and became a government witness in 1998. He is in the witness protection program.
Roach also testified about a violent campaign against the DC Blacks, a black prison gang, that he said began after the DC Blacks placed a hit on two Aryan Brotherhood members.
The alleged race war — and the deaths of two black inmates that resulted from it — are at the center of the government's case against two of the defendants now on trial. The government alleges that Mills and another gang leader, T.D. "The Hulk" Bingham, ordered the attack on the black inmates and mobilized brotherhood members for a gang war.
Roach's testimony has also tied the defendants to many of the 32 murders and attempted murders detailed in an indictment targeting the white supremacist gang, founded in 1964 at California's San Quentin prison.
Prosecutors hope to dismantle the gang in a series of racketeering trials. Of 40 men initially charged, as many as 16 could face the death penalty for crimes going back 30 years.
The first group of four defendants — Mills, Bingham, Edgar "The Snail" Hevle and Christopher Gibson — are on trial in Santa Ana. All have pleaded not guilty. The rest are to be tried beginning in October.
Mills, already serving two life terms for a 1979 murder, could face the death penalty in the 1997 killings of two inmates in a Pennsylvania prison. Bingham, 58, also could be executed for the 1997 inmate killings. He is serving time on robbery and drug charges.
Hevle, 54, and Gibson, 46, could face life in prison.