The dead man’s transgression, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, was he “refused to protest the fact that he had a black cellmate.”
“The defendants pressured the victim to take any steps necessary to be reassigned to another cell,” the statement continued, adding that when the man, who did not belong to a prison gang, refused to comply “the defendants regarded this refusal as a violation of their gang code.”
The victim, Kenneth Mills, and the white supremacist gang members convicted of his murder – Donald R. LaFond Jr., 53, of New Bedford, Mass., and Jason Robert Widdison, 35, of Morgan, Utah – were inmates at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta. Authorities said LaFond was a member of the Aryan Resistance Militia and that Widdison belonged to the Soldiers of Aryan Culture.
“This verdict shows that, even within the federal prison system, violent offenders must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in the statement. “The fact that this particular homicide was motivated by racial animus makes these defendants’ actions all the more reprehensible.”
In the weeks leading up to the attack, according to the statement, LaFond and Widdison expressed anger toward the victim because he refused to change cells. Then on March 1, 2011, the victim, who the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to name, approached the two men and tried to talk to them as they exercised in a recreation area inside a housing unit.
After a brief conversation, LaFond and Widdison pounced, punching the victim from the front and back. He was quickly knocked to the ground, and then the two gang members stomped him on his head and neck, as many as 10 times each.
A correctional officer stopped the attack, but the victim was already unconscious. He was taken to a hospital but never regained consciousness and died on April 5, 2011.
Last November, the Southern Poverty Law Center (publisher of Hatewatch) released a training video to help law enforcement officials combat white supremacist prison gangs. The video was produced following the assassination of Colorado’s prison director by a parolee who belonged to 211 Crew, also known as the Aryan Alliance, a particularly vicious regional white supremacist prison gang.