OXFORD – Profanity-laced cell phone calls between Mississippi prison inmates played in federal court Tuesday revealed plans to stab or beat other inmates, unite with California gang members to acquire and sell methamphetamines and recruit others to the gang.
A jury of seven men and seven women began the tedious process of listening to the recorded calls gathered by court-ordered wire taps during the two-year investigation of the meth-distribution scheme allegedly orchestrated from prisons at Parchman, Marshall County, Alcorn County, Greene County and Walnut Grove.
“Are inmates suppose to have cell phones?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Leary asked cooperating witness Stephen Hubanks as he testified.
“No, they’re not,” the long-time state inmate responded as the recordings began the prosecution’s case against Aryan Brotherhood members Frank Owens Jr. of D’Iberville and Eric Parker of Petal.
The men are the last of 17, including Hubanks, indicted in 2014 in a 31-page document alleging the illegal activities.
Owens and Parker also are accused of involvement in the 2010 kidnapping and murder of Michael Hudson in south Mississippi, and Owens of the attempted murder of Jeremy Bailey in the Marshall County Correctional Facility.
They pleaded not guilty and face lengthy federal prison sentences, if convicted.
A third co-defendant, Perry Wayne Mask of Corinth, avoided trial by pleading guilty Friday to one count of conspiracy. Without the plea deal, he also faced charges of attempted murder and the theft of 44 firearms from a two licensed dealers in Coldwater and Corinth.
For his cooperation with the government, Hubanks said he has a “kill on sight” order against him. He also claimed defendant Owens attained the title “thunder warrior” after committing at least one act of “extreme violence.”
Owens’ attorney William Andy Sumrall tried to get Hubanks to admit that his court oath and his 2005 Aryan Brotherhood loyalty oath were not reliable, since Hubanks relinquished his membership. The Aryan Brotherhood is described as a whites only prison gang.
But Hubanks vigorously argued his court oath was real. “I am trying to make up for a mistake I made a long time ago,” he said.
Hubanks is the first of several Aryan Brotherhood members expected to testify after cutting deals with the government to cooperate and avoid more serious punishment. .
Tuesday’s first witness, DEA agent Dwayne Smith said federal agents listened to calls between multiple state inmates across about 17 days during the fall of 2013, and discovered what they believed to be a drug organization in north Mississippi.
Testimony later in the day from the local DEA chief characterized the alleged scheme as the “most complex” he’s seen in his more than 100 investigations.