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The Brotherhood, Part 1: A Prison Gang Made in N.H.

Brotherhood of White Warriors Has Corrections Officials Worried

  • Top row, from left: Daniel Boothby, Randall Chapman, Ray Cole, William Edic and Jesse Jarvis. Bottom row, from left: Thomas Milton, Matthew Peters, Frank Philbrook, Jerod Trebian and John Wildes. (Courtesy photographs)

    Top row, from left: Daniel Boothby, Randall Chapman, Ray Cole, William Edic and Jesse Jarvis. Bottom row, from left: Thomas Milton, Matthew Peters, Frank Philbrook, Jerod Trebian and John Wildes. (Courtesy photographs)

  • On November 5, 2005, the Brotherhood of White Warriors, known as BOWW, was formed in the yard at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility, a state prison in Berlin, and is New Hampshire's first homegrown prison gang.<br/><br/> (Concord Monitor - John Tully)

    On November 5, 2005, the Brotherhood of White Warriors, known as BOWW, was formed in the yard at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility, a state prison in Berlin, and is New Hampshire's first homegrown prison gang.

    (Concord Monitor - John Tully)

  • On November 5, 2005, the Brotherhood of White Warriors, known as BOWW, was formed in the yard at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility, a state prison in Berlin, and is New Hampshire's first homegrown prison gang.<br/><br/> (Concord Monitor - John Tully)

    On November 5, 2005, the Brotherhood of White Warriors, known as BOWW, was formed in the yard at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility, a state prison in Berlin, and is New Hampshire's first homegrown prison gang.

    (Concord Monitor - John Tully)

  • Top row, from left: Daniel Boothby, Randall Chapman, Ray Cole, William Edic and Jesse Jarvis. Bottom row, from left: Thomas Milton, Matthew Peters, Frank Philbrook, Jerod Trebian and John Wildes. (Courtesy photographs)
  • On November 5, 2005, the Brotherhood of White Warriors, known as BOWW, was formed in the yard at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility, a state prison in Berlin, and is New Hampshire's first homegrown prison gang.<br/><br/> (Concord Monitor - John Tully)
  • On November 5, 2005, the Brotherhood of White Warriors, known as BOWW, was formed in the yard at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility, a state prison in Berlin, and is New Hampshire's first homegrown prison gang.<br/><br/> (Concord Monitor - John Tully)

Concord — On the night of Feb. 1, two men clutching handguns approached a minivan on a residential street near Memorial Field in Concord. One wore a hood, the other a hockey mask. Reaching the vehicle, according to police reports, they threw open its doors and forced the driver into the back. The driver was pinned against his seat, struck in the face hard enough to dislodge several teeth and told to give up “the stuff.”

The assailants — Daniel Boothby, of Concord, a former Charlestown resident, and Matthew Peters, also of Concord — had come for thousands of dollars worth of heroin in the van, officials later said, and to retaliate for an insult the driver had allegedly slung at their white supremacist group, the Brotherhood of White Warriors.

Forged for protective purposes eight years ago in the Berlin prison, the brotherhood, known as BOWW, had long presented a security concern for prison officials.

At the time of the Concord assault, police investigators had heard of the group, but had never knowingly dealt with it on the streets.

The attack was indicative of an alarming shift, they realized: For months, a detective later wrote, BOWW had been on the move, enlisting young recruits, masterminding similar street assaults, drug runs and thefts, and tampering with potential witnesses — all part of what he called in an affidavit a “long-term plan to build a profitable criminal enterprise outside of the prison walls.”

Gangs and their related activities — violence, extortion, drug smuggling — have pervaded New Hampshire’s prisons for decades, according to officials. Though just 10 to 15 percent of male inmates in New Hampshire are identified gang affiliates, Tim Coulombe, an investigator and gang expert with the state Department of Corrections, estimated 85 percent of “management problems” in the state’s prisons are related to their activity.

In all, 60 gangs operate within the state’s prisons, some with just a few members, he said.

BOWW is no exception, Coulombe and other officials contend. Its members steal, beat and coerce other inmates into crime, and extort them for protection. Its illegal dealings are often assisted by friends and family members, and have ensnared others, including a Concord elementary school teacher and a mother of three. The group today has as many as 300 known and suspected affiliates in New Hampshire, Coulombe said.

Something also sets BOWW apart, Coulombe said: Never before has a gang formed exclusively inside the state’s penitentiaries. BOWW is New Hampshire’s first homegrown prison gang.

In interviews with the Concord Monitor, three of BOWW’s four alleged leaders disputed accusations that the group is a criminal enterprise, that it is anywhere near the size officials cite or that it is spilling onto the streets. BOWW is not a gang, they insist. It was created with good intentions and continues to help white prisoners weather the physical, mental and emotional challenges of life in prison.

“By no stretch of the imagination are the guys involved angels or Robin Hoods,” said Jerod Trebian, an alleged founder and inmate at the state prison in Concord. “But they do try to look out for each other.”

There are signs, though, that even if the group formed with what members viewed as good intentions, those have since eroded. From interviews with officials and documents obtained from them by the Monitor, the group appears to have splintered, with some members still holding to its original goals and others championing a more aggressive, profitable agenda.

With Boothby and Peters — the alleged leaders of BOWW’s street campaign — in custody, the Concord police believe they have at least temporarily halted the group’s outward growth.

The potential for future violence persists, though, as nearly all inmates are eventually released from prison and many members of BOWW maintain personal ties to Concord and Claremont. One of the group’s alleged leaders, Jesse Jarvis, could be paroled to Sullivan County in as little as 21/2 months.

“You take a look at membership from our community and take a look at the records of criminal behavior of those individuals who have been associated with BOWW, (and) it would be impossible to conclude anything other than it’s a potentially violent and potentially disruptive influence in our community,” said Marc Hathaway, Sullivan County’s longtime county attorney.

BOWW is Born

The meeting, on Nov. 5, 2005, lasted 20 minutes and was void of fanfare: A handful of white and Hispanic gang leaders gathered, conversing in the Berlin prison yard.

It could have seemed a routine assemblage of inmates, but to those present and to security officials later reviewing it on a videotape, the convergence held a clear, singular purpose: the announcement of the birth of BOWW.

Coulombe, who has reviewed the footage several times, said eight leaders were present — four from BOWW, four from a rival Hispanic gang.

For weeks, stories had circulated among prisoners at the Northern N.H. Correctional Facility of white inmates being extorted by Hispanic gang members, forced to pay “rent,” move drugs or perpetrate other acts against their will.

“The men being exploited were usually young and old and also the men who did their time by sticking to themselves,” Ray Cole, one of BOWW’s founders, wrote in a letter from a New York federal prison, where he is serving time for a 2007 Concord home invasion. “Easy targets with little to no backing from other whites.”

With no established defense to turn to, Cole, Trebian, Jarvis and one other, John Wildes, of Maine, according to prison and law enforcement officials, formed their own. They called it the Brotherhood of White Warriors. To them, the group was not a gang, but a fraternity of like minds and shared strife.

The men held “similar beliefs and were all tough kids,” Cole wrote. “Every one of them willing to ‘go’ at a second’s notice.”

Cole’s own record, including an attack at a Concord Mexican restaurant in which he broke a man’s nose and jaw, suggested as much. In 2003, while incarcerated at the Berlin prison, Cole was cited for threatening an inmate and inciting a group demonstration in the process.

“This guy was claiming to be some serial rapist, and he said he was done hiding it from everyone,” Cole, 42, recalled.

“The conversation was pissing me off, so I freaked out and told the guy what I was going to do to him when we got back to the dorm. … I did 15 days in the box (solitary confinement) and that was that.”

Trebian, 35, had amassed a lengthy criminal history by 2005, including first-degree assaults, theft and drug possession.

Wildes earned his name as a cat burglar in Maine and New Hampshire.

Jarvis, who the police have identified in the past as the president of BOWW, was first arrested in 1999, at age 18, when he palmed merchandise from a Kmart in Claremont, attacked a security guard there and tried to escape detention through a ventilation shaft. Jarvis, now 32, was arrested again in spring 2005 for assaulting two on-duty police officers.

All but Wildes, who is 37 and incarcerated in New Mexico, agreed to speak to the Monitor for this story. A friend who responded to an interview request on his behalf said he was no longer affiliated with BOWW.

BOWW’s formation happened quickly.

“After seeing and hearing about these exploitations, myself, and a few other men whom I won’t name, decided it was time to do something about the problem,” Cole wrote. Almost overnight, he said, the group’s structure and bylaws were outlined, its inaugural members selected. Members agreed to exercise daily, earn a GED certificate if they had not finished high school and refrain from intravenous drugs.

“The bylaws were designed around helping the men in the brotherhood to better themselves and leave the prison system to go and be something,” Cole wrote.

Supremacy and Protection

The degree to which white supremacist ideology influenced BOWW’s early days is unclear.

Trebian, who has not admitted being a founder or member of BOWW, echoed Cole’s account — that the group’s chief concern was protection. In a telephone interview from prison, Jarvis declined to discuss the group’s origins but said members abide by a popular slogan among white nationalists, referred to as “the 14 words”: “We must secure the existence of our race for the future of white children.”

In a prepared statement describing BOWW’s purpose, Jarvis said the group also follows the ideas promoted by David Duke, a former Louisiana state representative and Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan; Richard Kelly Hoskins, an American author and prominent white nationalist activist; and George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party.

“It’s never been about hatred for other races,” Jarvis said. “It was always about the love for one’s own race, and the self-preservation to protect that race.”

In addition, a document recovered two years ago in a Merrimack County jail cell and identified by officials there as the group’s mission statement instructs charges to “enlighten and educate your fellow Aryan brethren of what we as a people truly are. Which is with no doubt and has been scientifically proven time and again throughout history with the utmost honor and pride, the Superior Race of all humankind.”

Whatever the underlying philosophy, inmates and officials said BOWW’s founders used their first meeting with the Hispanic gang members in Berlin to declare an end to the established prison order.

“ ‘You’re done running business the way it’s been done,’ ” Trebian said, recalling what the leaders told their counterparts. “ ‘If you have a problem, we’ll deal with it the way we have to.’ ”

Within weeks of that first meeting, BOWW had attracted attention from prisoners and staff through roughly half a dozen violent episodes, Coulombe said. The most serious of these, a series of fistfights between opposing gang members on Thanksgiving Day 2005, left at least one inmate hospitalized and the prison on lockdown.

The incident was a troubling indicator for prison officials about BOWW’s emergence, Coulombe said, and they responded quickly to uproot it, shipping Jarvis and other alleged BOWW members to the Concord prison.

But the move did little to curb the gang’s spread, Coulombe said. It seemed instead to propel it, for the group — and both its benign and more violent activities — soon surfaced in Concord as well.

“My understanding is it didn’t take long,” Trebian said of the growth. “You have to assume there were quite a few people who had respect for the guys.”

Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 603-369-3319 or jblackman@cmonitor.com. Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 603-369-3323 or atimmins@cmonitor.com.

NOTE: Read Part 2 of this series at this link.

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