LAKE CITY, Fla. – Two men who worked for the Florida prison system and belonged to the Ku Klux Klan have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit murder.
Charles Newcomb and David Moran were arraigned in Columbia County Court on Wednesday. They are charged with planning to kill a former black prison inmate in retaliation for a fight.
Their next court appearance is scheduled for May 20.
A third man, Thomas Driver, was previously arraigned on the same charges.
When they were arrested, Driver and Moran were current correctional officers of the Department of Corrections at the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler. Newcomb was a corrections officer trainee who was dismissed in January 2013 for failure to meet minimum requirements.
The inmate is a Putnam County man.
Investigators said that late last year Driver handed a picture of the inmate, who was at that time out on supervised released, to an FBI informant who had infiltrated the Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Driver told the informant he had a fight with the inmate and both he and Moran wanted the former inmate "6 feet under."
Over the next few months, the FBI said its informant met with all three men, discussing plans to kill the man. One alleged plan involved shooting him during a ride to Palatka; another plan was to inject him with insulin and make it look like he died in a fishing accident.
Attorney General Pam Bondi said the plot grew out of a fight one of them had with the inmate.
"The inmate was released from prison. Later they later cased the inmate's home in an attempt to murder him by injecting him with insulin," said Bondi.
The FBI started working on the case in November 2014. They staged a homicide scene where they took photos of the former inmate, making it appear that he had been murdered.
"Photographs were shown to each of the men. They expressed happiness. They shook the source's hand and the source even went to the point of asking is this what you wanted," said Nick Cox, state prosecutor.
We also spoke with the former inmate's attorney about the case after finding out about the threat on the former inmate's life, the FBI took him into protective custody while they infiltrated the Klan and worked the case.
"There is still a lot of work that has to be done in society as it relates to race relations and hate crimes," said Terrill Hill, attorney for the former inmate.
The former inmate is no longer in protective custody, but is being supervised.
The wide-ranging investigation included the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, the Florida Department of Corrections Office of Inspector General, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
The FBI's office in Jacksonville said it would not comment on an open investigation.
Driver and Moran were arrested in Union County and Newcomb in Alachua County. The case will be prosecuted in Columbia County.
All three suspects are facing 30 years in a Florida state prison and they are all charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.