Harlan Hale, Christopher Foss, Buck Pickens and Michael McNabb

From left is Harlan Hale, Christopher Foss, Buck Pickens and Michael McNabb

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BOISE –  Harlan Hale, 55, a leader of the Idaho prison gang known as the Aryan Knights, or “AK,” was sentenced to life in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of participating in a RICO (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act) conspiracy and one count of committing a violent crime in furtherance of racketeering activity, Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr. announced today.

In imposing this sentence, Chief U.S. District Judge David C. Nye ordered that it be served after Hale’s existing sentences from a State of Idaho case and a federal case in the District of Wyoming.

As alleged in the indictment, the AK was formed in the mid-1990s in the Idaho prison system. It is a prison gang that operates within Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) prison facilities and also outside of IDOC facilities. It was founded to organize criminal activity for a select group of white inmates within IDOC custody. The AK has white supremacist and white separatist ideologies. Since its founding, the AK has expanded and is now believed to have over 100 members, both inside and outside of IDOC custody. The AK has used violence and the threat of violence to target non‑white inmates and other targeted inmates. The AK also has used drug trafficking, extortion, and gambling to generate revenue, which was shared among members.

“The life sentence imposed on this defendant recognizes the devastating effects that prison gangs, and especially white supremacist prison gangs, have on the rehabilitative mission of correctional institutions and individual inmates who sincerely hope to use their period of incarceration to successfully reenter society,” said Mr. Gonzalez. “Violent crime will not be tolerated, whether out of prison or in prison, and I commend the FBI and investigators at the Idaho Department of Correction for creating an effective partnership to root out the type of racketeering activity uncovered through this investigation.”

According to court records, Hale held a leadership role in the AK and participated in drug trafficking and violent assaults. The drug trafficking was extensive and involved significant quantities of methamphetamine. When debts went unpaid, the gang used violence to collect. For example, in 2015, Hale assaulted another inmate for failing to pay a drug debt, then provided that inmate with additional drugs and required that he sell the drugs in order to pay back the debt. The violence was not limited to non-members. In 2016, Hale and two other gang members assaulted a former AK member with improvised knives. During the attack, Hale stabbed the victim repeatedly.

“The crimes of organized prison gangs often go beyond the prison walls, bringing more drugs and violence into our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the Salt Lake City FBI. “This life sentence should be a message to others involved in violent gang crimes—regardless of where it takes place—that law enforcement will investigate and hold them accountable.”

Ten members of the AK were charged in this case. Seven of these defendants have pleaded guilty to date and three have been sentenced so far:

  • Christopher Foss, 32, was sentenced in September 2020 to 210 months in federal prison, with 174 months to be served after his earliest possible parole date for his current state prison sentence. Foss was also ordered to serve five years of supervised release following his incarceration.
  • Buck Pickens, 31, was sentenced in September 2020 to 206 months in federal prison, with 60 months to be served after his earliest possible parole date for his current sentence. Pickens was also ordered to serve five years of supervised release following his incarceration.
  • Michael McNabb, 36, was sentenced in August 2020 to 28 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.

A jury trial for the remaining defendants is scheduled for October 4, 2021. These defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from IDOC’s Special Investigations Unit, Ada County Sheriff’s Office, and the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office.

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This article originally ran on rexburgstandardjournal.com.

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