5 neo-Nazis charged in jail conspiracy

Group attacked guards, inmates, officials say

Arizona Daily Star/March 18, 2004
By Eric Swedlund

Using sign language and notes written in German, five self-proclaimed white supremacists at the Pima County jail conspired to assault corrections officers and other inmates in an attempt to take over the jail, officials charged Wednesday.

The loosely organized white supremacist uprising started in early January with assaults against two corrections officers and was quieted by the end of the month. Jail officials systematically increased security measures and took away privileges to calm the inmates.

Jail officials suspected the assaults were the result a conspiracy among white supremacists rather than the work of individual inmates, said Capt. Greg Gearhart, Special Operations Division commander. Inmates told officials assaults would continue until minority officers and inmates were segregated.

The investigation centered on five inmates who had been communicating with hand signs and writing to each other in German and in code, Gearhart said. Officials searched their cells and found evidence of white supremacist ties.

"We found significant writing espousing neo-Nazi beliefs," Gearhart said.

Each inmate is charged with two counts of participating in a criminal syndicate, four counts of assisting a criminal syndicate and five counts of threats and intimidation to promote a criminal syndicate. Three of them are state prisoners transferred to the jail for court dates and appear to have brought a prison-gang influence to the jail, Gearhart said.

The jail inmates facing charges are:

  • Keith Royal Phillips, 26, a former death-row inmate awaiting resentencing for the 1998 murder of a double amputee shot during a robbery at a Southwest Side restaurant.
  • Dennis Levis, 21, who is serving an 18-year sentence for armed robbery and aggravated assault.
  • Marshall Thompson, 22, who is serving a 5-year sentence for armed robbery. Both he and Levis are in jail awaiting trial on charges of assaulting Department of Corrections officers.
  • David Higdon, 22, who is in jail on first-degree murder and robbery charges in the June 2002 beating death of a 24-year-old gay man.
  • Clinton Lucky, 23, who is in jail on aggravated assault charges.

Phillips and Levis are each facing charges of aggravated assault on a corrections officer in the guard attacks.

Phillips is "extremely manipulative" and "may have had some leadership role," Gearhart said.

Phillips, Thompson and Levis consider themselves "Arizona Warskins" and Lucky and Higdon consider themselves "Ancestral Warskins," Gearhart said. They believe all minorities are inferior and all government employees are part of a Zionist government intent on destroying the white race.

"It really is a sick train of thought on their part," Gearhart said. "The scary thing of this is the train of thought in this type of person is extremely dangerous."

Corrections Bureau Chief Martha Cramer said two of the inmates - Levis and Thompson - slipped the locks on their cells and got out to assault minority inmates.

In a mid-January letter to County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described escalating misbehavior among the white supremacists, including property damage, threats and disruptive noise.

"Their eventual intent is essentially to take control of the jail," he wrote.

Gearhart said the investigation and conspiracy charges will send a message to anybody involved in a prison gang who is jailed in Pima County.

"We're not going to tolerate it here and we'll pursue charges to the fullest," he said.

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