Barry Mills, Brutal Leader of Racist Prison Gang, Dies at 70

Barry Mills in an undated booking photograph. He spent nearly three-quarters of his life behind bars, transforming himself from a teenage misfit into a national crime boss.

Barry Mills, the brutal leader of the white supremacist prison gang called the Aryan Brotherhood, died on July 8 behind bars, where he had spent nearly three-quarters of his life, transforming himself from a teenage misfit to a charismatic national crime boss. He was 70.

His death, a day after his birthday, was confirmed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He had been serving four life terms at the maximum security penitentiary in Florence, Colo., where he was found dead in his cell. Randy Keller, the Fremont County coroner, said there was no evidence of foul play.

Bald, brawny and mustachioed, Mr. Mills sported sinister dark sunglasses (his eye had been injured in a prison brawl) and was known deferentially as the Baron.

But his avocation defied the stereotype of a vengeful killer: He enjoyed embroidering.

Mr. Mills was among 40 people indicted in 2002 for committing 32 murders, or trying to. They were charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, typically invoked to prosecute organized-crime figures.

In a case against four of the ringleaders that took four months to present in 2006, the government played tape-recorded phone calls and videos and exhibited a coded message, written in urine, that declared war in 1997 against an African-American rival gang, the D.C. Blacks, in the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa. The battle left two members of the D.C. Blacks dead.

The four defendants, including Mr. Mills and Tyler D. Bingham, the second in command of the Aryan Brotherhood, were found guilty of racketeering and conspiracy and of murders dating to 1979.

Mr. Mills was also convicted of inciting the Lewisburg riot, and of the attempted decapitation in 1979 of an inmate in a bathroom stall of the federal prison in Atlanta for cheating the Brotherhood in a drug deal.

The jurors deadlocked on imposing the death penalty for Mr. Mills and Mr. Bingham, which the government had hoped would purge the Aryan Brotherhood from the prison system once and for all. But they were persuaded to return guilty verdicts on virtually every count.

“The real reason for their murders,” the prosecutor argued, “is because Barry Mills and Tyler Bingham believe that they have the right — the sovereign right — to dispense life and death.”

Mr. Mills was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

The Aryan Brotherhood originated in San Quentin State Prison in California around 1964 and metastasized to lockups around the country. Its members, all white, claimed that they had banded together to protect themselves against gangs of black and Mexican inmates.

But the authorities eventually implicated the Brotherhood in monopolizing drug dealing, gambling, extortion, prostitution and other prison rackets, as well as murdering guards and rivals, fomenting racial warfare among prisoners, recruiting ex-convicts as accessories and even extorting tribute from John Gotti, the Mafia boss. Mr. Gotti was assaulted by a black fellow inmate in 1996 after he had stopped paying the Aryan Brotherhood for protection.

The Aryan Brotherhood, also known as the Brand — members were tattooed, typically with a green shamrock, the abbreviation AB or the number 666, known in the Bible as “the number of the beast” — was a hierarchical gang headed by a two- or three-member commission, which had included Mr. Mills since around 1980.

Barry Byron Mills was born on July 7, 1948, in Windsor, Calif., a tiny grape-growing town near Santa Rosa in Sonoma County.

As an antsy 19-year-old with felonious ambitions, he headed south for Ventura, where, as he alighted from a Greyhound bus, he was arrested on charges of stealing a car from his hometown country club. He was remanded to the Sonoma County Honor Farm. He escaped after a few months.

A week after his escape from the honor farm, he and a partner robbed a 7-Eleven store of $775. They were arrested three hours later. Incriminated by his accomplice, Mr. Mills was sentenced to five years in San Quentin, where he eagerly insinuated himself into the newly organized Aryan Brotherhood.

Shortly after he was released in 1977, he was arrested and charged with plotting a bank robbery in Fresno with other gang members while they were all in San Quentin. The robbers expected to net at least $2 million. They escaped with all of $21,000, until another informant gave them away. Mr. Mills was caught, convicted and sentenced to 20 years in a federal prison.

He was also convicted in 2006 on the basis of statements from former gang members, who defense lawyers said had been promised favorable treatment in return for their testimony.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

“Blood in, blood out” was the gang’s code, prosecutors said. It meant that an initiate had to kill to join, and that the only way to leave was to die.

“There is justified violence in our society,” Mr. Mills once explained. “If you disrespect me or one of my friends, I will readily and to the very best of my ability engage you in a full combat mode.

“That’s what I’m about.”

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