"I will HONOR my heritage, my culture, my race," Smith proclaims. "I AM PROUD TO BE AN ARYAN."
This ongoing intra-gang reinforcement of a white nationalist belief system, as crudely expressed as it may be, further sets the Aryan Circle apart from the Aryan Brotherhood. The Brotherhood long ago placed illegal commerce above ideology by doing business with the Mexican Mafia, a non-white prison gang. The Brotherhood is still a race-based gang, but as the saying goes among prison gang investigators, the only color that really matters to the Brotherhood these days is green.
The Aryan Circle signed a peace treaty with the Mexican Mafia in 1996, ending a four-year gang war in the "TDC," or Texas Department of Corrections, that resulted in 13 murders. The Aryan Circle and Aryan Brotherhood gangs are also under a peace treaty in Texas. But outside that state, the rivalry between the two "has metastasized into its own beast," Sanchez said. Reports from the Federal Bureau of Prisons say the Aryan Circle has vastly improved its numbers and is in deadly conflict with the Aryan Brotherhood.
Hornacek told the Intelligence Report that the two gangs maintain uneasy truces with Aryan Brotherhood and Mexican Mafia in Texas, mainly due to their shared hatred of black prison gangs such as the Gangster Disciples and the Black Guerilla Family.
"If you got caught talking to a black [inmate], other whites would stay away from you," Aryan Circle member Johnny Bravo said in a February 2006 interview with Gorillaconvict, an authoritative blog run by incarcerated prison gang researcher Seth Ferranti. "We don't house with them [blacks], period."
A widely distributed Circle leaflet titled "14 Whys," a play on the famous "14 Words" white nationalist catchphrase, details the gang's strict opposition to any form of race-mixing, whether behind prison walls or in the world outside. "WHY does the media repudiate the historically proven fact that racial integration is cultural and biological genocide?" it asks. "WHY do the Christian churches promote adoption of colored children from all over the world by White families, when the result is genocide of the White race? WHY does the U.S. Government advance White genocide through forced busing of our school children?"
Aryan Circle's concern for white children extends to a hard-line stance against drug abuse by its own members. One recent article in The Circular reads like an anti-drug public service announcement for white supremacists: "More of our white brothers are being arrested and sent to prison with drug addictions. The outcome is … a weaker white population, less protection for our white women … and our lost sense of 'Family Values.' Our white sisters are left carrying the load of a 'household' we helped create. Often she is then forced into low-income housing and welfare lines where she becomes surrounded and overwhelmed by the black community who share these facilities. Then our children, the only hope for the future of our race … never grow with a sense of moral separateness.
"The choice is clear: Your Race, Your Family, Your Freedom … or your favorite drug."
Despite such pious admonishments, Circle members frequently engage in large-scale distribution of illegal narcotics, particularly methamphetamine, and many of them can't resist getting high on their own supply. In 2004, 29 Aryan Circle members were arrested in Texas for taking part in a methamphetamine ring that produced and sold more than 30 kilograms of meth in west Texas beginning in January 2000.
Prosecutors argued that Michael Curtis "Bones" Lewis, co-founder of the Odessa chapter of the Circle, was the ringleader. But several witnesses testified over the course of a three-week trial that Lewis was virtually incapacitated by a severe meth habit. Defense attorneys argued that Lewis and his supposed underlings were incapable of masterminding the complex black market operation described by prosecutors because of the Odessa gang's "disorganization, internal rivalries and [their] own drug addictions."
The jury didn't buy it. All 29 defendants were convicted.
After the 2004 methamphetamine bust, the Aryan Circle maintained a relatively low profile beyond prison walls. But that ended last January, when 20-year-old Circle member Ronald David Dickinson, who'd joined the gang while serving time for grand theft auto, was stomped to death by 52-year-old fellow Circle member John Michael Hays, who explained in a videotaped confession that Dickinson had called Hays' daughter a "Mexican whore."
In August, the same month Hays was sentenced to 99 years in prison, another Aryan Circle internal dispute flared into violence in Texas when Bryan "Bone" Aiken and three gang associates allegedly set out to assassinate Danny Covington, a Circle member since the 1980s. Covington, who lived in upscale North Richland Hills, near Fort Worth, was rumored to be abandoning the gang.
When the four hit men appeared at a drug house where Covington was believed to be, Covington and his friend Bryan Shuler showed up and found themselves in a shootout. Shuler was hit in the hand. Covington escaped in his car, but was chased down and shot in the arm by Aiken, who was only a few weeks out of prison.
At the time of the assassination attempt, Aiken was also a suspect, along with four other Circle members, in the July 18 home invasion robbery, beating and execution-style shooting of Randall Whatley, who survived.
According to prison officials, Aiken left the Aryan Circle after completing a "Gang Renouncement and Disassociation Process" in June 2004. But then he rejoined.
"It's rare that happens," Michelle Lyons of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "He is one of only two people who completed the program and then went back into a gang."
Four days before the failed hit on Covington, two teenagers in Victoria, Texas, were killed and a third man was injured in a shootout with Circle member Dennis Leighton Clem, 24, who had just completed a four-year sentence in the TDC for "deadly conduct."
Clem fled the state with his girlfriend, Tanya "Little Feather" Smith, a reported member of the Aryan Circle Women's Branch, a division for female Circle members whose mission statement asserts: "As women of the Aryan Circle we strive to stand behind our men for the support they need against our foes. We will stand beside them when they are backed to the dooryard in battle. And we will fight for them should they become incapacitated by force."
One month later, Clem, Smith and Donald Alex Brendle, a member of the Louisiana chapter of Aryan Circle, were holed up in a Budget Inn motel room in Bastrop, La. Responding to a Crimestoppers tip, Bastrop Police Department detective sergeants John Smith and Charles Wilson approached the room from the parking lot. Clem immediately opened fire, killing Smith and Wilson. Minutes later, Clem shot and injured two ambulance workers. Clem died in a final exchange of gunfire with police.
Brendle and two other Louisiana Circle members were arrested the next day and charged with accessory to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and obstruction of justice. Smith escaped but was later apprehended in Houston.
Clem will no doubt be hailed as a martyr within the Aryan Circle as the gang continues to cultivate new strongholds, especially in prison systems where the power of the Aryan Brotherhood is waning in the aftermath of federal racketeering indictments. Sanchez says the two are now even in numbers and power, both in Texas and abroad. The Aryan Circle's correspondence with Nazi gangs in Europe has enhanced their network.
"They're dealing with people out of France," says Sanchez. "If you're dealing with any European groups, it's always about the hate."
Hornacek, the Circle member incarcerated in Alabama, disavows any knowledge of the Circle's regions or Leafs. He claims to be "inactive," though he admits to maintaining contact with Circle members in California and Texas. Prison officials suspect he's under orders to establish the Circle within Alabama's state prisons, adding another ring to the gang's expanding web of violence and hatred.
"It's been brought to my attention that they are one gang to be observed and that we should definitely document and monitor them," says Eric Bascomb, the Alabama DOC security threat group coordinator. "They are very methodical and secretive about their process, and they are also more organized and radical than the Aryan Brotherhood."
According to Sanchez, dissension in the ranks of the Aryan Circle could deplete the gang. But he also warns that it could grow stronger. "You never know with these guys," says Sanchez. "All it takes is one guy who has the charisma to pull it all together, and he may be right around the corner."