Two alleged members or associates of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) have been indicted and arrested for their alleged roles in 2008 murder in Liberty County announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales of the Eastern District of Texas.

The indictment was returned by the federal grand jury on July 21, 2010, and charges Steven Walter Cooke, 43, of Tomball, Texas, and David Jason Michels, 28, of Magnolia, Texas, with violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity. These activities include conspiracy to commit murder, murder, and possessing and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death.

According to the indictment, the ABT is a powerful race-based, state-wide organization that operates inside and outside of state and federal prisons throughout Texas and the United States. The ABT was established in the early 1980’s within the Texas prison system. It modeled itself after and adopted many of the precepts and writings of the Aryan Brotherhood, a California-based prison gang that was formed in the California prison system during the 1960’s. According to the indictment, previously the ABT was primarily concerned with the protection of white inmates and white supremacy/separatism. Over time, the ABT has expanded its focus more towards a criminal enterprise to include illegal activities for profit.

The ABT enforces its rules and promotes discipline among its members, prospects and associates through murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, assault, robbery and threats against those who violate the rules or pose a threat to the enterprise. Members, and oftentimes associates, are required to follow the orders of higher-ranking members, often referred to as “direct orders.”

The indictment alleges that Scott Freeman, aka "Arizona" or "AZ," 37, of Livingston, Texas, was murdered by the ABT because of his involvement and recruitment efforts for the competing ABT faction. It is alleged that Steven Walter Cooke, aka "Stainless" or "Stain" or "SS," and David Jason Michels, aka "J," sought to maintain and increase position within the ABT by murdering Freeman on Oct. 12, 2008 on FM 787 in Cleveland..

Cooke and Michels went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Giblin on Aug. 18, 2010 for their initial appearances. If convicted, they each face up to life in prison or the death penalty.

This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas – Lufkin Office, in full cooperation with the Liberty County District Attorney’s Office, and is being investigated by the ATF, the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Police Department.

An indictment is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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