FRESNO — Federal prosecutors here have secured a RICO indictment against the two California prisoners who are allegedly responsible for the August 2015 fatal stabbing of a member of the “San Quentin Six” at a Sacramento prison, according to recently unsealed court records.
Jayson “Beaver” Weaver, 46, and Waylon Pitchford, 45, face charges of murdering Hugo “Yogi” Pinell on Aug. 12, 2015 for the notorious prison gang known as the Aryan Brotherhood. Pitchford and Beaver have been transferred from their state prison cells to the Fresno jail, where a total of 11 alleged Aryan Brotherhood members and associates are being held with pending racketeering charges.
With this indictment, and a related federal prosecution in Sacramento, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern California has now linked the Aryan Brotherhood to 11 killings and several other alleged murder plots that were unfulfilled. Pitchford and Weaver also face charges of conspiring with gang associate Kenneth Bash to murder a man Bash suspected of being a child molester, court records show.
The 11 homicides include seven prison stabbings and two separate double homicides in Southern California. In both the double homicides, prosecutors allege the killers were willing to murder the victims because they’d been promised membership in the exclusive all-white prison gang.
According to a criminal complaint, Weaver attacked the 71-year-old Pinell on a California State Prison, Sacramento exercise yard, stabbing him a total of 20 times while Pitchford held down his legs. The attackers were undeterred by guards’ tossing two gas grenades at them and by a 20-minute prisoner riot that began during the stabbing, prosecutors say.
Pinell, serving six life sentences at the time of his death, had spent decades in solitary confinement before his death. He was mired in controversy throughout his life. Decarceration activists saw him as a political prisoner and a revolutionary, while law enforcement generally viewed him as a murderer who’d gained notoriety through violence.
In 1971, he and five others were implicated in the “San Quentin Six” escape attempt, which left three guards and three inmates dead, including George Jackson, the activist, author and co-founder of the Black Guerrilla Family. Pinell was also convicted of murdering a guard at Soledad prison in 1971, and with participation in the San Quentin escape attempt.
He was also a well-known target of the Aryan Brotherhood, whose members allegedly smuggled a zip gun into Folsom State Prison in 1981 as part of an unsuccessful plot to kill him. He later survived two stabbings and a homemade bomb being thrown at him, according to court records.
His stabbing may have appeared to be an affront to a peace treaty between racial groups in prisons that was struck three years earlier. But authorities say a late Aryan Brotherhood member, Gary Joe Littrell, was transferred from the strict confines of the Pelican Bay State Prison’s Segregated Housing Unit, or SHU, in 2015, and made it clear to others that the hit on Pinell was still active.
Littrell was one of hundreds of alleged gang members who were freed from the Pelican Bay SHU due to a class action federal lawsuit filed by numerous SHU residents, who protested being held in small, windowless concrete cells simply because they were accused of gang membership, court records show. Several of those who were freed are now part of the RICO prosecutions, including Aryan Brotherhood leaders who allegedly began running heroin and methamphetamine rings after returning to general population, prosecutors say.
A federal lawsuit filed by a Pinell’s stepdaughter accused the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation of knowingly putting Pinell in harm’s way by transferring him from solitary confinement to the Sacramento prison. A judge threw out the lawsuit after a DNA test showed the plaintiff was not Pinell’s biological daughter and couldn’t legally sue on his behalf.