This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
For years, Tracy David Swena was a leader in a Utah white-supremacist gang that allegedly operated a drug ring and protected incarcerated members from other inmates through intimidation and violent crimes.
But for the next two decades, "General" Swena will be Inmate Swena. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart in Salt Lake City imposed a 20-year prison term on the founder of the Soldiers of the Aryan Culture (SAC), who admitted in a plea bargain to extortion and methamphetamine distribution.
Swena entered his guilty plea and was sentenced by video conference from a 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.
The 29-year-old Swena was one of a dozen purported gang members indicted in December 2003 under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law. Authorities allege that SAC, which formed in 1997, operated a methamphetamine ring both 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, with the prison terms ranging from three to 20 years. The eighth, Mark Isaac Snarr, is scheduled to be sentenced today in a deal that calls for him to spend 15 1/2 years behind bars.
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 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.
And defendant Lance Vanderstappen is charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a fellow prisoner last month in a holding cell at the federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City 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.