A Federal prosecutor has withdrawn from a large racketeering case involving members of the Aryan Brotherhood, citing “security concerns.”
The Dallas Morning News reported that Houston-based assistant U.S. attorney Jay Hileman announced his withdrawal in an email.
The news comes days after Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were shot and killed during Easter weekend in their home near Dallas.
In February, Mark Hasse, an assistant prosecutor in McLelland’s office, was gunned down in a parking lot about a block from his office at the Kaufman County Courthouse. Hasse was a veteran prosecutor of organized crime cases.
Although no suspects have been positively identified, state and Federal investigators believe that the Aryan Brotherhood might be responsible for these attacks on prosecutors.
Such attacks–and the withdrawal of a federal prosecutor for fear of becoming a target–are unprecedented. And clearly law enforcement needs to take a new and creative approach to attacking street gangs.
According to the FBI:
- Some 33,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs with about 1.4 million members are criminally active in the U.S. today.
- Many are sophisticated and well organized; all use violence to control neighborhoods and boost their illegal money-making activities, which include robbery, drug- and gun-trafficking, fraud, extortion, and prostitution rings.
- The FBI is redoubling its efforts to dismantle gangs through intelligence-driven investigations and new initiatives and partnerships.
Obtaining timely and accurate intelligence about gang activities is, of course, an absolute necessity. But there are two approaches the FBI and other law enforcement agencies should be applying.
These amount to using both the stick and the carrot.
First, the stick: An all-out declaration of war on any criminal foolhardy enough to directly attack law enforcement authorities.
Consider these past two examples:
In April, 1963, FBI agent John Foley was conducting surveillance at the Brooklyn funeral of Carmine “The Doctor” Lombardozzi, a capo in the Gambino Mafia Family.
Suddenly, four mobsters knocked Foley to the ground, then severely beat and kicked him.
For the FBI, this was unprecedented: It had long been known that organized crime was too smart to attack or kill law enforcement officers–especially Federal ones. The resulting heat would simply be too great.
The FBI retaliated by launching an all-out war against the Gambinos. Agents leaned heavily on the cartel’s boss, underboss, counselor and lieutenants.
The Bureau also intensified its use of illegal electronic surveillance against the mobsters. Even law-abiding relatives of the Gambinos—one of these a nun, the other a priest—found themselves interrogated.
Angelo Bruno, the boss of the Philadelphia crime syndicate, unwittingly informed a hidden microphone on how the FBI brutally drove home the message to “boss of all bosses” Carlo Gambino:
BRUNO: They [the FBI] went to Carlo and named all his capos to him….The FBI asked him: “Did you change the laws in your family, that you could hit FBI men, punch and kick them?
“Well, this is the test—that if you change the laws, and now you are going to hit FBI men, every time we pick up one of your people we are going to break their heads for them.”
And, really, they picked up our guy, they almost killed him, the FBI. They don’t do that, you know. But they picked up one of his fellows and crippled him.
They said, “This is an example. Now, the next time anyone lays a hand on an FBI man, that’s just a warning. There’s nothing else we have got to tell you.” And they went away.
Word traveled quickly through the nationwide organized crime network—and its leaders decreed there should be no further assaults on FBI agents.
Still, some mobsters apparently didn’t get the word.
During the 1960s or early 1970s, FBI agents monitoring a wiretap on a mob family in Youngstown, Ohio, heard something truly disturbing.
Several Mafia members were discussing putting out a contract on a local FBI agent they especially disliked.
“How many hit men do we have?” asked one.
“Three,” said another.
They made arrangements to meet and discuss the matter again the next day.
The FBI agents monitoring the wiretap immediately flashed an urgent warning to the Bureau’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
No less an authority than J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI since 1924, ordered that a “message’ be sent to the mobsters.
That night, about 20 large, heavily-armed FBI agents barged into the penthouse of the local Mafia boss. Some agents tipped over vases, others dropped lit matches on the luxurious carpeting, and one of them even urinated in a potted plant.
“You may have three hitmen,” one of them told the mob boss, “but Mr. Hoover has thousands.”
The FBI agent thought to be the target for a rubout was never bothered.
In my next column I will discuss the option of the carrot.