Two men get life terms for jail murders

Associated Press/August 18, 2007

Santa Ana -- Two members of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang will get life in prison without the chance of parole for plotting the murders of two black inmates, after a jury deadlocked on whether to recommend the death penalty.

A federal jury deliberated about 41/2 days before announcing the deadlock Thursday. Jurors voted 9-3 in favor of the death penalty for Wayne Bridgewater and 11-1 against the death penalty for Henry Michael Houston, authorities said.

The men will be sentenced to life Oct. 16, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.

The case was part of a larger indictment that federal prosecutors hope will eventually dismantle the Aryan Brotherhood, a violent white supremacist organization accused of running powerful gambling operations and drug rings from inside some of the nation's most dangerous prisons.

At least a half-dozen other trials are pending in Southern California, where federal prosecutors are handling Aryan Brotherhood cases from across the country, assistant U.S. Attorney Terri Flynn said Friday.

Bridgewater, 55, of Washington state, and Houston, 45, of California, were convicted of involvement in the Aug. 29, 1997, murders of two inmates at a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa.

Bridgewater was serving time there for a series of Washington state bank robberies and for assault for stabbing a black inmate 25 times at another federal prison in 1981, Flynn said. The man survived.

Houston, who originally was sent to prison for drug crimes, was in the Lewisburg prison after he was convicted of a marijuana trafficking scheme in the federal prison in Lompoc, Flynn said.

Prosecutors said that while at the Pennsylvania prison, Bridgewater and Houston helped kill black inmates Frank Joyner and Abdul Salaam. They were killed after Bridgewater and another gang member, Al Benton, got an invisible-ink message that said "War with D.C. Blacks" -- a reference to a black prison gang.

Defense attorney Steven White said prosecutors misinterpreted that message, which was a warning about a gang war brewing in other federal prisons and not an order to kill.

White also argued at trial that Houston never stabbed anyone and that Bridgewater acted in self-defense when he stabbed one black inmate and helped kill another.

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