• April 14, 2021

Meth-Dealing, White Supremacist Prison Gang Leader Gets Life

 Meth-Dealing, White Supremacist Prison Gang Leader Gets Life

Harlan Hale (left) and Christopher Foss. Photos courtesy of Idaho Department of Correction

WYOMING — The leader of a meth-dealing, white supremacist prison gang will spend the rest of his life behind bars for his role in a orchestrating a drug trafficking ring out of a Boise, Idaho prison. 

According to the United States Department of Justice, 55-year-old Harlan Hale – a leader of the Aryan Knights – will now be facing even harder time for his role leading nine other inmates in a conspiracy to move methamphetamine throughout the prison system from his unit in a Boise correctional facility, often resorting to violence when debts went unpaid.  

…the AK gang has a long history of violence both inside and outside the Idaho Department of Corrections, where the group has actively engaged in drug trafficking, illegal gambling and extortion.

“The life sentence imposed on this defendant recognizes the devastating effects that prison gangs, and especially white supremacist prison gangs, have on the rehabilitative mission of correctional institutions and individual inmates who sincerely hope to use their period of incarceration to successfully reenter society,” Idaho’s Acting US Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr. said in a statement posted to the Department of Justice’s website.  

Hale is the third member of the gang to be sentenced for his role in the conspiracy, joining fellow inmates Christopher Foss and Buck Pickens, who were both sentenced to 17 years for their crimes back in October as part of a three-year investigation into their activities. 

Since their inception as a relatively small organization inside of the Idaho prison system in the mid-1990s, the Aryan Knights – or “AK” – has expanded and is now believed, according to the Idaho Statesman, to count roughly 165 members within their ranks both inside and outside of IDOC custody. They are often recognized by tattoos bearing the letters “AK” either in simple font or more, elaborate designs, according to a brief on the group by the Anti-Defamation League.  

Aryan Knights symbol, image courtesy of ADL

Idaho itself has a long and turbulent history of white supremacist extremist groups within its borders, with picturesque mountain town of Coeur d’Alene previously serving as an epicenter of the white supremacist terrorist organization, the Aryan Nation.  

According to the Department of Justice, the AK gang has a long history of violence both inside and outside the Idaho Department of Corrections, where the group has actively engaged in drug trafficking, illegal gambling and extortion. Initiates must commit two violent acts before joining the gang and, once in, regularly engage in criminal activities to make money, which is shared among members of the group. 

Hale – who was already serving a 25 year to life sentence on a litany of other charges out of both Idaho and the neighboring state of Wyoming – was no stranger to that violence.  

Hale held a leadership role in the AK and participated in drug trafficking and violent assaults, according to the DOJ. In 2015, Hale assaulted another inmate for failing to pay a drug debt and later provided that inmate with additional drugs and required he sell the drugs in order to pay off the debt. The following year, Hale and two other gang members used shanks on a former AK member.  

Hale, according to court documents, stabbed the victim repeatedly. 

Nick Reynolds

Nick Reynolds covers policy and politics in Wyoming and the upper mountain west. A native of upstate New York, he has spent most of his career working in small newspapers and alt-weeklies. Currently, he covers the statehouse and Washington D.C. for Wyoming's statewide newspaper, the Casper Star-Tribune, where his work occasionally makes national headlines. On weekends, he hikes.

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