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Could DEA Agent’s love for donuts topple Aryan Brotherhood prosecution?

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Could DEA Agent's love for donuts topple Aryan Brotherhood prosecution?

SACRAMENTO — Within some seedy enclaves of Northern California, Brian Nehring is known as a master of disguise for the Drug Enforcement Administration with the uncanny ability to convince seasoned and suspicious drug dealers that he’s not a cop.

But this sly government chameleon may now be trapped by his own sweet tooth. The lawyer for one of three Aryan Brotherhood members facing RICO charges believes he may have caught Nehring lying under oath to cover up the eating of two donuts in 2019.

Five years ago, before a grand jury, Nehring, a DEA special agent, testified he ate donuts from an Irish Mafia-connected heroin dealer who’d concealed the drugs in a box. Yet just the other day, before a jury in a racketeering case, Nehring denied he ate them. Called back to the stand for a third time last Monday, Nehring hedged his denial.

“I don’t think I did. Although it wouldn’t surprise me,” Nehring said. “I love donuts.”

Now defense attorney Knut Johnson wants to bring Nehring back on the witness stand, again, and impeach him with the grand jury transcript where he confesses to the donut eating. And lest anyone think this issue is a “silly” legal point, Johnson’s motion offers assurances that it in fact, deadly serious.

“(Nehring) is unreliable, the jurors should not trust him, the police investigation is sloppy, and the case agent in charge of the government’s case does not seem to care about details,” Johnson wrote, adding that it showed and “unserious, unprofessional approach,” besides being potentially dangerous.

Johnson’s client, William Sylvester, is charged with butchering an inmate named Ronald Richardson in an attack caught on camera, a fairly straightforward allegation with only one real legal question: prosecutors say Sylvester did it to obey a standing order by the Aryan Brotherhood to attack skinheads, the defense says Richardson was a “known child molester” and not welcome on that exercise yard.

In order to prove a racketeering murder, prosecutors must establish a gang-motive for the Richardson murder. Authorities have also implicated Sylvester in assisting co-defendant Ronald Dean Yandell in directing heroin sales inside and outside of prison.

Here’s how the donuts play into the biggest effort in decades by the federal government to splinter up the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang: In the late 2010s, Nehring started investigating some alleged heroin dealers associated with the Family Affiliated Irish Mafia, which led to his discovery that one of his suspects was spending a lot of time on the phone with an Aryan Brotherhood commissioner.

Her names was Jeanna Quesenberry, and a DEA wiretap revealed she was helping the Aryan Brotherhood smuggle drugs into prison and sell them on the outside, sometimes with help from members of an Orange County-based skinhead gang, according to prosecutors. She was also selling heroin to Nehring, whose longtime work as an undercover agent has led to infamous drug busts, like the takedown of Thizz Entertainment.

Testifying before a 2019 grand jury, Nehring described his interactions with Quesenberry and how one time she gave him a box of donuts, with heroin hidden under a false bottom that she crafted.

“Sounds like a lot of work,” offered Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hitt, perhaps attempting to elicit more details of Quesenberry’s drug concealment. But Nehring just continued to talk about donuts.

“I ate the donuts. They were got a lot of stuff about that (from colleagues), that, ‘You ate heroin,’” Nehring said, according to a transcript. “Donuts were on top of the heroin. They were good donuts.”



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