By Jim Schoettler
April 02–Two state prison guards and a former guard identified by authorities as Ku Klux Klan members were arrested Thursday morning and charged with plotting to kill a black man over a fight in a Columbia County prison, the state Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday.
Thomas Jordan Driver, 25, of Lake City, David Elliot Moran, 47, of Lake Butler, and Charles Thomas Newcomb, 42, of Keystone Heights are charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
The defendants plotted the murder as retaliation for a fight between the unidentified inmate, who is black, and Driver, according to a news release from the Attorney General’s Office. Details about the fight, the plot, the suspects and where the inmate was housed were not included in the release.
The Columbia and Lake City correctional institutions house state inmates in Columbia County.
Driver, a corrections officer hired in 2010, and Morgan, a corrections sergeant hired in 1996, were arrested after they reported to work at the Department of Corrections Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler. They are being held in the Union County jail, said Whitney Ray, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office.
Newcomb, the former prison guard, is being held in the Alachua County jail on $750,000 bail. He was already free on bail after being arrested in February in Clay County. He was charged with impersonating a police officer and threatening to arrest a woman in November if she didn’t pay him $500 for bounced check she gave to a Palatka truck dealer who sent Newcomb to her home, records show.
The Attorney General’s Office and the Jacksonville division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation led the investigation. The Jacksonville and St. Johns county sheriff’s offices assisted, but it’s unclear what role those agencies played in the arrests.
The FBI and Jacksonville police referred all inquries to the Attorney General’s Office.
The Times-Union has requested more information about the suspects and the plot. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said authorities are working to unseal the arrest warrant affidavits to provide additional details.
The suspects were identified in the news release as members of the Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
An internet search for the group turned up the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The group’s website said its goal is to unite and organize “White Christian Patriots.”
“The media, government propagandists and their ilk (and all their demonic supporters ) will try their best to convince you the is no longer relevant,” the website said. “If this were so they would not devote so much time to trying to demonize it and mischaracterize it’s sublime Truths.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s website said the group is based in Missouri and is active there and in Alabama. It said the group late last year leafleted towns in Pennsylvania and grew from three klaverns in 2012 to seven in 2013.
No one from the group was immediately available to comment.
The Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case in Columbia County.
Other agencies involved in the investigation included: Homeland Security, the Florida Department of Corrections Office of Inspector General, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
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