State and federal authorities have arrested three Ku Klux Klan members — all of whom work, or have worked, for Florida's troubled prison agency — on charges of conspiring to kill a former prison inmate, prosecutors say.
Arrested Thursday were Thomas Jordan Driver, 25, David Elliot Moran, 47, and Charles Thomas Newcomb, 42, according to a news release from the state Attorney General's Office. All three face charges of conspiracy to commit murder.
Prosecutors say Driver and Morgan work for the Department of Corrections. Newcomb was a former prison employee who was let go during his probation period.
The three are alleged to have plotted the murder as retaliation for a fight between the inmate, an African-American, and Driver. The corrections officers belong to the Traditional Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, prosecutors say.
The corrections officers work at the Reception and Medical Center, a prison that processes incoming inmates and provides medical services for others. In Lake Butler, it houses a maximum of 1,503 inmates.
Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones said that the men arrested were "part of a white supremacist group that was targeting inmates."
Jones, who briefed Sen. Rob Bradley R-Fleming Island, after a hearing on her confirmation by the Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations, told him "we have done all the 'intel' work inside the prison. We have a handle on this."
She said the incident was "disquieting."
Later, the DOC released an official statement: "We are moving swiftly to terminate the employees arrested (Thursday) and working closely with Office of the Attorney General to assist in their prosecution. 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 and honorable correctional officers employed at the Department of Corrections."
Driver, hired as a corrections officer on July 23, 2010, received a written reprimand in April 2012 for willful violation of rules and another two months later for absence without authorized leave.
Moran, whose employment history dates to 1996, was promoted to sergeant in April 2004. He received written reprimands in October 1999 and February 2006 for conduct unbecoming a public employee, and a supervisory counseling memorandum in May 2010 for abuse of sick leave.
Newcomb, hired Oct, 12, 2012, as a trainee-status correctional officer, was dismissed the following Jan. 6 for failure to meet a correctional officer's minimum training requirements.
The arrests Thursday resulted from an investigation by several law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Corrections' Inspector General's Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
The three will be tried in Columbia County.