Alleged Aryan Brotherhood members agree to make video court appearances, avoiding legal battle over ‘unprecedented’ restrictions

SACRAMENTO — In a move that avoids a legal battle over what one federal judge called an “unprecedented” request by prosecutors, five alleged Aryan Brotherhood members have agreed to not appear to certain court hearings in person.

In a stipulation filed Tuesday, alleged Aryan Brotherhood members Ronald Yandell, Danny Troxell, Pat Brady, Jason Corbett, and William Sylvester all agreed to appear by video to all court hearings where their appearance isn’t required or wouldn’t be valuable to the defense. The document was electronically signed by a federal prosecutor on behalf of the defendants, with stated clearance from their lawyers.

With the stipulation, the Eastern California District U.S. Attorney’s office has formally withdrawn its 2019 motion to force the men to appear in court remotely, arguing that they were too dangerous to appear in person. Defense attorneys called it an “unprecedented” restriction that infringed on their clients’ right to face criminal charges in person.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller, who would have eventually ruled on the motion, agreed that it was unprecedented but gave no indication what she thought of the merits. The coronavirus pandemic made the issue moot for most of 2020, as key hearings in the case were continually put off until earlier this year.

In court records, prosecutors said the defendants were seen “eyeing locks,” exchanging secret messages, and that another of the defendants, Samuel Keeton, had apparently tampered with the lighting device in his cell.

Yandell, Troxell, Brady, Corbett, and Sylvester are among two dozen alleged Aryan Brotherhood members and associates charged in four related cases with various federal crimes. Prosecutors attributed five prison murders and four alleged murder plots to the gang, as well as a large-scale methamphetamine and heroin trafficking ring that they say was run from inside prison, with contraband cellphones.

The stipulation gives the defendants the option to appear in court for non-critical hearings if they give advanced notice.

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Author: Nate Gartrell