Marked for Death

Trapped in a prison race war, Tony Francis had three choices: kill, snitch or run. He found another way out.

Campbell was stabbed 27 times. Kuban was wounded but managed to flee and summon help. A cellmate of one of the men charged with the crime, Douglas Black, would subsequently file an affidavit in the case claiming that Black had described the attack to him in detail: "Doug Black told this writer that Greg Cuban [sic] told him he told on people in the prison bakery for making wine, and Doug Black said he thinks Cuban was ratting people out to a counselor...He told other people what Cuban told him about snitching on people, [and] a bunch of people "pulled fat boy up on it'...Fat boy Cuban told people that he was going to get Black, and for them to tell Black to "bring it to him.'

"Doug Black stated to this writer that his knife was about two foot long and said that fat boy almost had a heart attack when he pulled it out of his pants...He don't know how he lived because he "punched' Cuban full of holes...Cuban broke loose and made it out of the cell and shit all over himself. Doug Black told this writer that the "ex-cop' [Campbell] would not mind his own business and leave the cell like he was told to because the problem was between Black and Cuban only, but that Campbell tried to play hero."

Black was already facing a life sentence for murder in Massachusetts in addition to his federal time. He accepted a plea bargain in the slaying that resulted in a seven-year sentence for assault. His accomplice, Steven Riddle, who did most of the stabbing of Campbell, accepted a plea deal that netted him ten years for manslaughter.

Hadley Hooper
For related stories see Crime and Punishment: Westword reporting on the Criminal Justice System and the Corrections Industry.

Five days after the Campbell slaying, a corrections officer in the SHU made another grisly discovery. A drug smuggler and undocumented alien named Mirssa Araiza-Reyes beckoned the officer into his cell, took him to his cellmate's bunk and raised the sheets. The body was discolored and had been dead for some time.

"I did what I had to do," Araiza-Reyes told the officer. "I took care of that snitch for you."

Araiza-Reyes was serving time for illegal re-entry to the United States after having been deported to Mexico in connection with various felonies. He had an abiding hatred of informants and was known to compel his cellmates to sign a statement that they would not attempt to discuss his case with him. Months earlier, while confined at FCI Englewood, he'd been charged with attempted murder after he attacked a cellmate with a padlock and razor and sent him to the hospital. But that hadn't prevented him from having another cellmate in the SHU in Florence.

After supper on January 17, Araiza-Reyes got into an argument with his latest cellie, Frank Melendez, a cocaine dealer from California. Melendez suffered blows to his head, chest and knees; then he was strangled.

For four days, no one noticed. According to the paperwork kept by the staff in the SHU, Melendez went through numerous counts, received several meals, was taken to showers and to the exercise yard -- all while he was lying dead in his cell. The incident sparked an internal investigation of procedures in the SHU and statements by BOP officials that prisoners in the 23-hour-a-day lockdown unit would be monitored more closely.

"The notion that they protect the inmates from each other is a complete absurdity," says Araiza-Reyes's attorney, Philip DuBois. "On paper, the victim was present and accounted for something like twenty times after he was dead."

Araiza-Reyes wasn't charged with Melendez's death until almost eighteen months later. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received a sentence of eight and a half years.

Among the staff at Florence, the killing soon became known as "the Weekend at Bernie's incident," a reference to a feeble comic movie built around corpse humor.

Q: Do you consider yourself a Nazi?

A: National Socialist, absolutely. 'Nazi' is derogatory.

Q: Do you consider yourself a white supremist?

A: Absolutely.

Q: Do you consider yourself a skinhead?

A: Skinhead leader.

Q: How have you survived in the USPs?

A: Violence. I wouldn't say I have a lot of friends, but my enemies stay far away.

Q: And why is that?

A: Because they know what time it is.

Q: If a black inmate inmate is assaulting a white inmate on the yard, will you go to the aid of the white inmate?

A: It depends on what this white inmate is. If he's a punk, if he sucks dick, if he takes it up the ass, no...If we see a weak, young white dude, sometimes we try to pull him up, make a man of him. If he comes in wearing panties, we ain't got nothing for him. He falls by the wayside. He becomes a victim.

Q: A victim of what?

A: Homosexuality. Violence. Extortion. It's an environment where only the strong survive. There's no room for weakness. None.-- Examination of Douglas "Saxon" Taylor, convicted bank robber and USP inmate

On August 28, 1997, the Aryan Brotherhood exacted payback from the DC Blacks in their ongoing race war. Abdul Salaam, a black leader at Lewisburg, and his roommate, Frank Joyner, were stabbed to death in their cell by three white inmates linked to the AB. According to Francis attorney Janine Yunker, the murders were the culmination of "a one-year period of retaliatory killings in U.S. penitentiaries throughout the country."

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