Dressed in prison jumpers and bound by shackles, seven alleged members and associates of the Aryan Warriors white supremacy prison gang said in U.S. District Court on Friday that they were innocent of federal racketeering charges.
"This is all a shock to me," said Guy Edward Almony, 35, an inmate at Ely State Prison who, along with 13 other men, is accused of trafficking drugs inside and outside Nevada prisons, bribing prison guards and extortion.
Almony, with a shaved head and goatee, told U.S. Magistrate Peggy Leen that he was innocent of all the charges against him. Almony is serving time for attempted murder, authorities said.
The Aryan Warriors are accused of multiple crimes, including murder, assaults and extortion of inmates and their families.
Authorities said the gang also is responsible for selling methamphetamine inside Nevada prisons and in Las Vegas, Henderson, Pahrump and Reno.
The gang allegedly has been active in the prison system for at least 17 years.
The men who appeared in court Friday all are serving time at Ely State Prison or at High Desert Prison in Indian Springs.
An additional "associate" of the Aryan Warriors who pleaded not guilty Friday, Kory Allen Crossman, is serving time in federal custody for felony possession of a firearm.
Lori Wallis, a friend of Crossman who attended Friday's hearing to support him, said she had known the 34-year-old since the third grade.
She said she wasn't aware that Crossman, who has a tattoo of a "w" on his left earlobe, was involved in any white supremacy groups and hoped the indictment against him would get thrown out.
"We all went through our punk rock stage," said Wallis, 33.
Also entering not guilty pleas Friday were Scott Michael Sieber, 39; Robert Allen Young, 29; Jason Inman, 32; Charles Lee Axtell, 47; and James Milton Wallis, 46.
Lori Wallis said she is not related to James Wallis.
Axtell, who has long, stringy hair, is serving a life sentence without the chance of parole for murder with a deadly weapon, federal prosecutors said.
The other men have criminal histories that include manslaughter and drug possession.
Although the inmates and members of the Aryan Warriors are facing racketeering charges, authorities haven't charged any prison guards or other staff with accepting bribes.
The indictment says the Aryan Warriors paid off guards and staff with money and drugs to ignore criminal activity, ferry drugs into the prisons and provide gang members with information on other inmates.
The Nevada attorney general's office is investigating the prison department.
In addition, the Nevada Department of Corrections is pursuing its own investigation into the matter, said director Howard Skolnik.
He said the department hasn't taken any action against prison staff because the allegations are still being investigated.
"If we have more information showing criminal behavior, we will take appropriate action," he said.
Skolnik said authorities arrested and charged two prison guards after information came to light through the investigation that they were involved in wrongdoing. However, he said the criminal activity wasn't directly related to the federal racketeering indictment.
On Thursday, Ronnie Lee Jones, 47; Tony Howard Morgan, 38; Kenneth Russell Krum, 37; Charles Edward Gensemer, 43; and Michael Wayne Yost, 53, pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges in federal court.