Democratic state Rep. Dianne Hart isn’t shocked by today’s Associated Press report on a failed murder plot of a Black former inmate by Ku Klux Klan members, some of whom worked as state corrections officers.
She’s only shocked by how little has been done so far to address the issue, and she now plans to call in the FBI to “conduct a thorough investigation into this matter and give recommendations to the Florida Legislature,” she said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“I have long asked (Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch), to no avail, to conduct an investigation into this problem because so many of these individuals hide in plain sight,” she said. “Due to the reported interest in this issue by the federal government, I will now be asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter and give recommendations to the Florida Legislature.”
Hart, who represents parts of Hillsborough County, including Tampa, said she has heard from state corrections officers, inmates and families about the how the problem has spread throughout the state prison system.
“There are officers (in) gangs and white supremacy groups that have positions of leadership within prisons around the state,” she said. “Unfortunately, I can’t say that I am surprised by this reporting.”
The report Hart referenced centers on an attempted revenge murder scheme several KKK members began devising in 2013. Putnam County resident Warren Williams, who had gotten into a fight with klansman and corrections officer Thomas Driver while Williams was incarcerated, was the target.
Driver, fellow corrections officer David Moran, and former prison guard Charles Newcomb concocted the plot, which undercover FBI informant Joseph Moore foiled.
Driver, who pleaded guilty and got a four-year sentence, is due out this year.
White supremacists pose a “persistent threat of lethal violence” and have been behind more killings than any other domestic terrorist group since 2000, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said in a joint May 2017 report.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told U.S. senators in March that “racially motivated violent extremism,” mostly by white supremacists, accounts for the most rapidly rising share of domestic terrorism cases, the AP reported.
And there is a pervasive effort by white nationalist extremists to infiltrate police and corrections departments, researchers, legal experts and federal law enforcement personnel warn.
“White supremacist groups have historically engaged in strategic efforts to infiltrate and recruit from law enforcement,” an FBI document released by a congressional committee in September said.
But despite warnings, reports and actual convictions stemming from white hate groups permeating police and corrections departments — as well as vehicles outside the Lake Butler prison where the three klansmen worked still sporting symbols associated with white supremacy, including Confederate flags, QAnon symbols and Thin Blue Line flag decals — the Florida Department of Corrections’ official line on the matter is that it’s not a serious enough problem to warrant a broad investigation.
The Florida Department of Corrections found no other “investigational leads,” spokesperson Michelle Glady told the AP. “However, any allegation of a staff member belonging to a group such as those mentioned, would be investigated on an individual basis.”
Well, Hart isn’t taking their word for it.
“This is a pervasive problem in our state correctional system that needs to be addressed,” she said on Twitter. “I will be reaching out to Federal resources in hopes to deal with this issue.”