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Nine Guilty So Far in Sprawling California Aryan Brotherhood Case

On January 3, 2024, California state prisoner and Aryan Brotherhood (AB) member Patrick “Big Pat” Brady, 53, pleaded guilty in federal court for the Northern District of California to murdering a fellow prisoner at High Desert State Prison (HDSP).

As part of a plea deal on charges of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Brady admitted fatally stabbing Donald “Joker” Pequeen in July 2018, after Pequeen falsely claimed AB membership to run up significant drug debt with the gang. Brady’s sentencing is set for March 2024.

The gang’s drug-trafficking operation behind bars was the target of a March 2019 indictment unsealed against Brady and 15 other alleged associates. But efforts to bring down the gang by the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) date back almost to the mid-1960s, when white supremacist prisoners formed “The Brand,” as AB is known. Under its “blood in, blood out” policy, members must kill to gain entry and may leave only when they die.

One of Brady’s co-defendants, Brant “Two Scoops” Daniel, 49, pleaded guilty on December 20, 2023, to murdering fellow state prisoner Zachary Scott at Salinas Valley State Prison in October 2016, after Scott—who was also part of The Brand—failed to carry out a hit that gang leaders ordered. Daniel was handed an additional prison sentence of life.

On December 11, 2023, another co-defendant, Jeanna Quesenberry, 57—who is part of the Family Affiliated Irish Mafia gang in San Francisco—pleaded guilty to conspiring with two fellow co-defendants, Orange County attorney Kevin MacNamara and confessed drug courier Samuel Keeton, to distributing drugs for AB leaders Ronald Yandell and William Sylvester. The two allegedly ran the operation from their shared cell at California State Prison (CSP) in Sacramento. Quesenberry is set for sentencing in February 2024. Keeton, 44, was the first of the 16 AB affiliates named in the indictment to confess his role in the scheme, pleading guilty on November 30, 2020, to maintaining the flow of heroin and meth and cash between Yandell, Sylvester and yet another co-defendant, Travis Burhop. Keeton is still awaiting sentencing.

Burhop, 51, struck a plea deal in September 2022, admitting he plotted with Yandell and Sylvester to kill fellow AB member James Mickey, whom the gang leaders had soured on because they thought he was skinning drug sales revenue. Burhop is also awaiting sentencing, currently set for March 2024.

The same month he made his deal, on September 12, 2022, Kristen Demar, then 47, pleaded guilty to posing as a paralegal for attorney MacNamara, using his wheelchair to smuggle meth to Sylvester during a legal visit at CSP-Sacramento. Sentencing is set for April 2024 for Demar, who is married to Sacramento Skinhead gang member Charles Gilbert “Boots” Demar. He is serving 75 years at the same prison for manufacturing methamphetamine for AB members to distribute. He is also a suspect in the 2018 slaying of fellow prisoner Aaron Glynn, 36, when both were incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison.

Another co-defendant, Donald “Popeye” Mazza, 53, struck a plea deal similar to Burhop’s in June 2021, confessing to a plot with Yandell and Sylvester to kill yet another fellow member of The Brand, Michael “Thumper” Trippe. Mazza said he picked up the assignment after former MMA fighter and fellow Public Enemy Number One gang member Matthew “Cyco” Hall, 48, failed to carry out the hit before he was arrested and committed suicide in Costa Rica in 2017. In both Mazza’s plea agreement and Burhop’s, prosecutors allowed the prisoners to say they felt pressured into their respective murder plots in order to maintain status in The Brand. Both plea deals are still pending.

Still another conviction from the indictment was handed down on February 6, 2023, to Justin “Rune” Petty, then 41, after the former shipping service employee pleaded guilty to muling drugs between AB members incarcerated at HDSP and CSP-Sacramento. He was sentenced on October 16, 2023, to 10 years and 10 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release.

Six Remaining Defendants Facing Trial

That brings the total number of convictions and plea agreements to nine from the 16 AB members and associates originally indicted. Another is now dead; Michael “Mosca” Torres, 59, was fatally stabbed at CSP-Sacramento on July 6, 2023, by fellow prisoners Juan Martinez, 47, and Ray “Cisco” Martinez, 49. Charges are still pending against attorney MacNamara, 43, along with Jason Corbett, 51; Danny Troxell, 70; and Kathleen Nolan, 69.

Nolan is accused of couriering drugs for the gang, like Keeton did. Corbett and Troxell are held at CSP-Sacramento on earlier convictions. Troxell was previously held at Pelican Bay State Prison, where he was a defendant in a class-action that CDCR settled in February 2022 with an agreement to stop throwing prisoners in isolation based on gang affiliation alone, as PLN reported. [See: PLN, Dec. 2022, p.12.] The indictment against the 16 AB members and associates recalls a 2014 hunger strike which sparked that suit, calling it an “illusion” because prisoners had stocked up their cells with canned food in advance. In fact, the indictment faults the suit’s settlement for creating a “growth opportunity” for The Brand in state prisons.

The alleged ring-leaders in the case, Sylvester, 55, and Yandell, 61, also remain incarcerated at CSP-Sacramento. Prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty for them and co-defendant Corbett in October 2023. Trial for all six remaining defendants is currently set for February 2024, and PLN will update developments as they are available. See: United States v. Yandell. USDC (E.D. Calif.), Case No. 2:19-cr-00107.

Yandell, Daniel and Brady have each alleged discrimination and retaliation while incarcerated for the charges they face. As PLN reported, Daniel’s attorneys filed allegations in his criminal case that guards were eavesdropping on their privileged conversations and had planted a knife in Daniel’s cell, for which he was thrown in disciplinary segregation. [See: PLN, Feb. 2022, p.34.]

Brady filed a pro se civil suit alleging he was held in solitary confinement for 167 of 168 hours every week while awaiting trial at the Sacramento County Jail, where he also alleged that deputies of Sheriff Scott Jones illegally surveilled attorney conferences. See: Brady v. Jones, USDC (E.D. Calif.), Case No. 2:21-cv-00489. Yandell also filed a pro se suit accusing Sheriff Jones’ deputies of eavesdropping on privileged conversations. But only a separate claim against a prison chaplain for denying his religious diet survived, after a motion for summary judgment was granted to remaining Defendants on January 9, 2024. See: Yandell v. Washington, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4643 (E.D. Cal.).  


Additional sources: CBS News, Davis Vanguard, Denver Post, Mercury News, Newsweek, Red Bluff Daily News, Sacramento Bee

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