LAKE CITY, Fla. – Two Ku Klux Klan members accused of plotting to kill a former black Florida inmate have been sentenced to 12 years in prison each for conspiracy to commit murder, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Friday.
A Columbia County jury found David Elliot Moran, 49, and Charles Thomas Newcomb, 45, guilty of one count each for plotting to kill the Putnam County man over a fight another man had had with the inmate.
That other man, Thomas Jordan Driver, 27, pleaded guilty in March 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to four years in prison.
"Florida is a safer state with these Klansmen behind bars,” Bondi said in a prepared statement. “Hate groups have no place in a civilized society and when members of these organizations plot violence and murder, we will be there to ensure justice is served and our citizens are protected.”
At the time of the murder conspiracy, Driver and Moran were correctional officers for the Florida Department of Corrections, and Newcomb was a former correctional officer.
“These men had positions of trust, which they violated when they conspired to kill a former inmate, and we worked closely with our law enforcement partners to ensure they are held accountable for their crimes,” said HSI Tampa Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero.
The trio was arrested in 2015 after an investigation by the North Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigation, with assistance from additional federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
“These Klansmen plotted to murder a black inmate after he was released from prison, but swift action and clever investigative tactics on behalf of investigators foiled their plot and may have saved a life,” Bondi said. “We will continue to work daily to ensure the KKK or any other hate-filled organization is unable to inflict violence on the citizens of our great state.”
Investigators said that 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.
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.
The FBI took the man into protective custody while they infiltrated the Klan and worked the case.
Driver and Moran were arrested in Union County and Newcomb in Alachua County.
“This case would not have been possible without the collaboration of our partnering law enforcement agencies,” said Charles P. Spencer, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. “We commend the members of the North Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (NFJTTF) who combined their talents, skills, and knowledge to work as a cohesive team and successfully disrupt this conspiracy.”