March 15, 2006

Gotti sought help from Aryan Brotherhood: prosecutor

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Alongside allegations such as
secret messages written in urine, the opening of the Aryan
Brotherhood trial includes a charge that late Mafia boss John
Gotti asked the prison gang to carry out a hit.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Emmick told jurors in one
of the largest death penalty cases in the United States that
Gotti sought out the Aryan Brotherhood, also known as the
Brand, in July 1996 after he was beaten by a black inmate,
Walter Johnson, at the U.S. penitentiary in Marion, Illinois,

"Fighting an organized crime figure may not be such a good
idea," Emmick added during his opening remarks on Tuesday.

Aryan Brotherhood chief Barry "The Baron" Mills, his top
lieutenant, Tyler "The Hulk" Bingham, Christopher Gibson and
Edgar "Snail" Hevle are charged with ruling U.S. prisons
through murder, assault and intimidation -- using secret
messages to order the execution of any inmate who crossed them.

The defendants say they are not a criminal gang but
prisoners who banded together to survive behind bars.

Emmick said Gotti, the accused head of the Gambino crime
family, was serving a life term for murder and extortion when
he told Brand members Michael "Big Mac" McElhiney and David
Sahakian he would pay the Aryan Brotherhood to kill Johnson.

The message was passed surreptitiously through the criminal
organization to Mills, Emmick said. Mills put out the word from
his cell at a maximum-security prison in Colorado that Johnson
should be murdered "at all costs," court papers said.

Although Emmick did not elaborate on how the order was
sent, he said during his remarks the Aryan Brotherhood often
communicated through notes written in secret code or with
invisible ink made from fruit juice or urine.

The hit was never carried out, Emmick told the jury,
because the Aryan Brotherhood could never find Johnson, and a
cancer-stricken Gotti, 61, died behind bars in 2002.

Prosecutors have been careful not to disclose the
whereabouts of Johnson, who was serving a 10-year sentence for
bank robbery at the time he crossed paths with Gotti.