Crime & Courts

Life sentences for neo-Nazi prison gang leaders convicted of 2017 Mat-Su murder

Federal shutdown

A federal judge in Anchorage sentenced two members of the 1488s -- a violent prison-based, neo-Nazi gang -- to life sentences on Tuesday.

Both men were part of a group of five affiliates convicted last May of numerous crimes stemming from a string of assaults in 2017 that culminated with the kidnapping, torture and murder of Michael Staton, a member who had fallen out of favor.

Three others convicted during the yearslong, complex federal investigation will be sentenced later in the week.

Two of the charges the men sentenced on Tuesday were found guilty of carry mandatory life sentences, making this week’s court proceedings largely a foregone conclusion: it was already clear they will spend the rest of their natural lives in prison. But the hearing provided final opportunities for the parties involved to speak about the case.

“He was one of the founders of a violent prison gang,” said U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess of Filthy Fuhrer, the first to be sentenced.

Fuhrer, 46, originally named Timothy Lobdell before legally changing his name, headed the 1488s, and, according to the government, authorized members outside of prison to brutalize several other members. At the time, Fuhrer was serving a lengthy sentence at the Spring Creek Correctional Center near Seward for the attempted murder of an Alaska State Trooper two decades ago.

In court Tuesday, his yellow prison scrubs hung loosely on his small frame. His shaved scalp and gaunt face were tattooed, with a wispy graying beard jutting a few inches out from his chin. Several U.S. Marshalls sat nearby, their eyes constantly sweeping the room.

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Asked if he wished to make a statement to the court, Fuhrer declined.

“The 1488s is a white supremacist prison-based criminal organization,” wrote prosecutors in a sentencing memo. “The origins of the gang began when Alaskan inmates were housed in out of state facilities in Arizona and Colorado. Upon being returned to Alaska, the 1488 gang was formed with a leadership structure, membership process, rules, and a specifically designed membership ‘patch’ — a swastika wrapped around a Nazi iron cross.”

Several of the charges Fuhrer and others were found guilty of involve violently burning and removing those tattoos.

Originally a means toward “improving its members’ positions in the prison hierarchy through violence, intimidation, and smuggling contraband,” members who were released out of prison “expanded their criminal activity to communities across Alaska,” federal prosecutors wrote.

“During 2016 and into 2017, the 1488s desired to make their organization stronger by eliminating members who had unsanctioned patches, who broke the rules of the enterprise, or who otherwise made the 1488s look ‘bad’ or ineffectual to other criminals,” according to a sentencing memo.

In April and July, with Fuhrer’s approval, 1488s on the outside attacked two of their own, removing one’s patch with a heated knife, and forcibly tattooing another with the words “’snitch or ‘bitch’ and ‘N***** (lover),” according to evidence presented at trial.

The racist epithet was tattooed by Roy Naughton, 44, one of Fuhrer’s deputies on the outside, and the one who was recorded on a prison phone call asking for permission to viciously punish Staton, according to trial evidence.

“He put the events in motion that led to Mr. Staton’s murder,” Burgess said of Naughton.

In August of 2017, Staton came to Anchorage from the Homer area, where he’d been hiding for nearly a year after crossing several fellow 1488s by stealing from them. From there, he was driven to a house in Wasilla where he was savagely beaten by four gang-affiliated men in an empty duplex unit lined with plastic sheeting. They heated a large knife with a propane torch and took turns burning the patch tattoo off his ribcage. One poured bleach down his throat, according to trial testimony. Recognizing Staton was beaten so severely he’d die without medical attention, they rolled him in a carpet and put him in a vehicle.

“They drove him to a remote location in the woods outside Wasilla, shot him, and burned his body. A moose hunter discovered his remains a month later, along with burned remnants of the blue tarp, pieces of rope and duct tape, and several .380 shell casings,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.

Burgess noted that Fuhrer showed many of the clinical definitions of a sociopath, including “using his personality to manipulate others,” impulsivity, and “lying for personal gain,” among others.

“I think they aptly fit the defendant in this case,” Burgess said. “Prison, which is a deterrent to many people, really isn’t a deterrent to him.”

The name “1488″ comes from white supremacist adoration of the the Nazis, and a fetishization of the numbers 14 and 88, which are significant in the white power movement. But most all the crimes prosecuted in the trial were inflicted on a fellow members over petty slights, with little beyond rhetoric and tattooed symbols connecting gang members to any kind of political cause or ideology.

“They wrapped themselves in the patina of being this white supremacist gang. But in the end they’re just criminals,” Burgess said.

“I do believe there is good in Mr. Fuhrer,” said his attorney Wayne C. Fricke. During sentencing, the defense attorneys conceded there was little for them to ask for given the mandatory life sentences attached to the murder and kidnapping charges pursued by prosecutors.

One of the only considerations the lawyers could request for their clients was which prisons to spend the rest of their lives. Fricke asked that Fuhrer be sent to a federal facility in Florida, which would be within driving distance of his aunt and mother. Naughton’s wish was to be placed at a Bureau of Prisons facility in Pennsylvania, in part to be separated from other 1488s. Prosecutors recommended Fuhrer be sent to the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, but deferred to the Bureau of Prisons for final judgement.

“This was not ever an intentional killing,” said Naughton’s attorney, Brent Hart. He stressed that while his client had done terrible things, he was not on hand for Staton’s torture and murder.

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Hart noted that the gang members involved in the case are “a group of drug addicts” who have cycled in and out of dysfunctional environments and prisons for most of their lives.

“Cruel environments produce cruel people,” he said. “There is the potential for kindness ... A guy that loves his mom very much.”

“I have never wanted to murder or kidnap anyone,” said Naughton, whose pale scalp was tattooed with a ship’s wheel over an anchor. On his face, black glasses and a thick goatee. “Shit got out of hand ... no one was supposed to die in this situation.”

Though family members of the victim were in the courtroom, they initially declined to speak. But David Staton, Michael’s brother, changed his mind during Naughton’s sentencing, rising to address him from just over a dozen feet away.

“I know you knew (Michael), and I know he stayed with you,” Staton said. He noted that his brother had two children, and, like Naughton, a mother he loved that would never see her son again.

“You caused this. You caused it,” Staton said. “I was gonna let it be. Then I gotta hear how you feel?”

“I hope you die in prison. I hope someone kills you in prison,” Staton said before taking his seat.

In handing down Naughton’s life sentence, Burgess noted that his nickname, “Thumper,” referred to his role as a violent enforcer for the gang.

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“Less there be any doubt, I think he earned his life sentence,” Burgess said.

Lawyers for both Fuhrer and Naughten said they plan on filing appeals.

Sentencing for Glen Baldwin, Colter O’Dell and Craig King is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at the federal court building.



Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers the military, dog mushing, politics, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. Prior to joining the ADN he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.

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