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article imageFlorida jailhouse guards arrested in murder plot linked to KKK

By Megan Hamilton     Apr 4, 2015 in Crime
Jacksonville - Three prison guards arrested in Florida Thursday are members of the Ku Klux Klan and it's alleged that they used Klan meetings to plan the murder of a black inmate upon his release.
Thomas Jordan Driver, 25, and David Elliot Moran, were corrections offficers when they were arrested. A third suspect, Charles Thomas Newcomb, 42, was fired as a prison guard in 2013. Each are members of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (TAKKKK), court documents say, The Daily Beast reports.
Thursday's arrest came on the heels of an investigation that was apparently built on testimony from a mole inside the Florida KKK, according to evidence from redacted affidavits signed by FBI agents. The informant was never named.
Multiple law enforcement agencies became involved in the investigation, according to a statement from the Florida Attorney General's office, including the Florida Highway Patrol, and Florida Fish and Wildlife.
The FBI was alerted to the plot to murder the former inmate when Moran and Newcomb introduced Driver to a confidential informant posing as a KKK member. This all went down at a Klan meeting in late 2014, court documents say, per The Daily Beast. It appears, at least according to the affidavit, that the purpose of the meeting was to arrange a killing.
"The defendants plotted the murder as a retaliation for a fight between the inmate, who is African American, and Driver," a press release from the state's Attorney General's office said. Conversations between the three men and the FBI informant reveal the motivations involved. Driver apparently held a vendetta since fighting with the inmate, whom he said bit him in the process, allegedly with the intent of giving him a fatal disease.
Driver was working as an officer at the Department of Corrections Reception when he and the inmate fought, The Orlando Sentinel reports.
Moran currently works as a sergeant at that facility while Newcomb was fired in 2013 for failing to meet training requirements, the department reported.
Authorities say that in late 2014, Driver provided a photo of the inmate to the Klan chapter. The man had been let out on supervised release, The Orlando Sentinel reports.
When Driver talked to the informant regarding the fight with the prisoner he allegedly said that he and Moran wanted him "six feet under," court documents say, CNN reports.
The FBI wanted to convince the suspects that the man was, indeed, dead, so the bureau staged a faked murder scene with the now-free man and took pictures that looked as if he had been killed.
"When the FBI staged this crime scene and these photographs were shown to each of these men, they were happy about it," Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox told CNN.
Using a burner cellphone, the FBI informant showed all three men the doctored photograph which showed the man appearing to look fatally shot and recorded their reactions. Each of the men appeared jubilant, The Orlando Sentinel reports.
Moran, whom the men called "Sarge," smiled when he saw the photograph, the informant said. Driver smiled, and shook the informant's hand, the FBI affidavit said.
The three men now face charges of one count each of conspiracy to commit murder, and if convicted, they face up to 30 years in jail, CNN reports.
The arrests are "disquieting," said Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones. She was hired last year to lead the agency, The Orlando Sentinel reports.
"We are moving swiftly to terminate the employees arrested today and working closely with Office of the Attorney General to assist in their prosecution, she said in a statement. "Our Department has zero tolerance for racism or prejudice of any kind. The actions of these individuals are unacceptable and do not, in any way, represent the thousands of good, hardworking honorable correctional officers employed at the Department of Corrections."
Driver and Moran are being held in Union County jail. Newcomb is in Alachua County Jail and a bond has been set at $750,000. The case will be heard in Columbia County in Northern Florida.
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