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White-Supremacist Inmate Sentenced to 20 Years

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A founder of the white-supremacist prison gang Soldiers of the Aryan Culture has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for extortion and methamphetamine distribution.

The sentenced was imposed on Tracy David Swena on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart.

Swena, 29, entered his guilty plea and was sentenced by video conference from the federal prison in Marion, Ill., where he is serving time in a separate case for illegal possession of a firearm.

The unusual arrangement provided tight security in a case that has included threats against prosecutors, a scuffle between alleged gang members and security officers, and a courthouse stabbing.

Swena was among a dozen purported gang members indicted in December 2003 under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law.

Authorities allege that SAC, which formed in 1997, operated a methamphetamine ring inside and outside Utah prisons and its members carried out violent crimes to maintain control of the enterprise.

Eight of the defendants have entered guilty pleas in the case and seven have been sentenced.

The defendants will serve their time in different facilities, the U.S. attorney's office said.

"Our hope is that scattering them to the four winds of the federal prison system will make their criminal enterprise harder to operate," spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch said.

During a court appearance last November, the defendants got into a brawl when U.S. Magistrate Samuel Alba told them that their family visits and phone calls were being cut off because of threats made against prosecutors in the case. Some of the shackled and handcuffed defendants shouted obscenities at Alba and scuffled with federal marshals and courthouse security officers for about two minutes before being subdued.

Another defendant, Lance Vanderstappen, is charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a fellow prisoner last month in a holding cell at the federal courthouse just minutes after being sentenced to a five-year prison term for racketeering. The victim, a Latino who was in court on a separate case and a stranger to Vanderstappen, suffered superficial wounds.

Another of the defendants was Swena's brother, Steve Mack Swena, 27, who was sentenced to 12 years.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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