A Pope County man convicted on federal charges of drug conspiracy, aiding and abetting attempted murder and conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday by a federal judge in Little Rock.
Marcus Millsap, 55, of Danville, was charged with conspiracy to violate RICO, aiding and abetting assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
Prosecutors said Millsap was a close associate of the New Aryan Empire, a white-supremacist gang that began as a jail gang in Pope County in the early 1990s and eventually spread to the state prison system and out into the "free world." The group is believed to be responsible for large-scale methamphetamine dealing in Central Arkansas and violent acts, including kidnapping and murder.
Millsap was the only one of the 55 defendants ultimately indicted who elected to go to trial and was the last remaining defendant to be sentenced. He was charged in a superseding indictment handed up in February 2019 with conspiracy to violate RICO, aiding and abetting attempted murder in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He was convicted on all counts Sept. 24, 2021, following a 14-day jury trial in which several members of the NAE testified against him in hopes of receiving leniency in their own cases.
Millsap had been accused of soliciting numerous members of the New Aryan Empire to kill an informant who was later found dead but whose murder remains unsolved. Of the remaining defendants, 53 pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 35 years to probation, based on their levels of involvement in the conspiracy and their cooperation. The lengthiest sentences were handed down to defendants who were involved in the RICO conspiracy and violent crimes in aid of racketeering or who were key players in the drug trafficking conspiracy.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Liza Jane Brown said that in addition to his being part of the drug conspiracy and his involvement in racketeering, Millsap provided financial support for the NAE through his association with Wesley Gullett, the NAE president who pleaded guilty to drug and RICO conspiracy and was sentenced in June 2021 to 35 years in prison.
"You look at what Mr. Gullett did, his money man was Marcus Millsap," Brown said. "That's where the money came from, and so you have them working as a friendship, as a business relationship, buying and selling methamphetamine. It was through that relationship that Millsap solicited Gullett and used members of NAE to go and try to murder an informant."
At trial, Brown and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Mazzanti presented evidence that in May 2014, Millsap sold methamphetamine to a police informant, Bruce Hurley of Atkins. Following that sale, prosecutors said, Millsap was pulled over by police and more methamphetamine was located in his truck. After he was convicted in the drug case, prosecutors said Millsap, while out on appeal bond, solicited members and associates of NAE to kill Hurley, which resulted in a failed attempt in January 2016.
On June 2, 2016, Hurley was found suffering from a gunshot wound in front of his home and died a short time later. To date, his murder is unsolved.
Millsap's attorneys, Tre Kitchens and Lee Curry, asked Miller to sentence Millsap to a term of years as opposed to a life sentence, and to give him credit for the time he has spent in custody.
"He has two minor children he has continued to support," Curry said. "We ask for a sentence that will allow him at some point to have some involvement in their lives."
Curry asked Miller to consider a term of imprisonment that would not be "overbearing for the sake of being overbearing" but "would be consistent with the other sentences that have been entered in this case."
Most of the heaviest sentences handed down in the case -- ranging from 13 years to 35 years in prison -- went to defendants who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate RICO or of violent crimes in aid of racketeering, including kidnapping, maiming and assault with a deadly weapon. Many of those defendants were core members or close associates of NAE.
"The government is asking for a life sentence," Brown said. "You have somebody who used his money and his relationship with a group of individuals to go out and try to kill somebody, and they actually went out to do it. Then he solicited more people because that failed. ... You have somebody who goes out and it doesn't happen so he keeps going, he keeps soliciting people, and he has the money to do it. ... He still has the financial ability to do it."
Brown also asked Miller to fine Millsap a total of $2 million in order to curtail his ability to use his wealth to get others to do his bidding.
"That will leave a trust for his children," she said, "but it will not allow him to go out and retaliate against anyone who got up on the stand and testified against him."
"My client is a drug addict," Kitchens said in one last attempt to persuade Miller. "He went to trial when 50 other people didn't. ... We believe what would be just and fair would be a term of years to give my client the opportunity to see his family and children again."
Miller agreed to the life sentence but balked at the size of the fine.
"A life sentence is not easy to give," he said. "If this were just a dope case, given all the circumstances, I might not do that. ... What's sticking with me is requesting somebody to go out and murder a witness. That's the hammer. ... It's not easy to do, but I'm going to order Mr. Millsap to the Bureau of Prisons for a term of life."
Addressing the fine prosecutors had requested, Miller said, "Let's talk about that."
Mazzanti said that when considering the fine, Millsap's dependents had been taken into consideration, but said the number of cooperating witnesses also was a factor.
"There's a very long list of people who cooperated openly and in public," she said. "The government has obvious concerns."
Noting Millsap's assets, which were calculated at $2.3 million, the judge said court records did not indicate Millsap's money was gained through criminal means.
"I'm not going to strip his children of his family's wealth," Miller said, and ordered Millsap to pay a $200,000 fine.