A Modesto man who insists that he is not a member of the Nazi Low Riders, even though he has white supremacist tattoos from his neck to his ankles, was sentenced to 18 years to life Friday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
David William Hess was a middleman between Dion Milam, a convicted murderer who has the words "Aryan Honor" tattooed over his eyebrows, and Allen Freitas, who was convicted of murder decades ago, served his time and cooperated with authorities when the state agreed to relocate him.
At the end of a two-week trial in April, 12 jurors found Hess, 35, guilty of carjacking and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang, stemming from a Dec. 22, 2005, assault on Freitas.
Taped conversations between Milam and Hess showed that a plot to rob Freitas was hatched when Milam, a shot-caller for the gang, was in jail in downtown Modesto awaiting trial. Hess, who claims to be a "peckerwood," or follower of white supremacy, rather than a gang member, was on parole.
A prosecutor predicted that Hess will have influence in prison because he worked as a hit man for the gang.
"He'll have clout, virtually guaranteed," Deputy District Attorney Thomas Brennan said after Judge Nancy Ashley handed down a mandatory sentence.
Hess was caught because investigators suspected that Milam and his associates were smuggling drugs into the jail by having friends spray liquid methamphetamine onto letters and children's drawings so inmates could chew the paper and get high.
Milam befriended Freitas when they were in custody on the same tier, after the gang learned that Freitas, a drug addict, had $25,000 in the bank from the sale of property. Freitas had been arrested on suspicion of killing his wife, but charges were dropped when an autopsy showed that she died of natural causes.
The day after Freitas' release, Milam sent Hess to Freitas' home to collect money, saying Freitas owed the gang for the drugs and protection he got in jail. Their conversation was recorded, as are all calls to and from the jail.
Freitas paid several hundred dollars to Hess during several encounters.
Investigators paid Freitas a visit after they heard Milam tell Hess to "get everything, take him." By the time authorities got there, Hess had taken Freitas' car. Hess was arrested the next day, at the wheel of Freitas' car. He had been out of prison for two weeks.
According to court records, Hess dropped out of school in seventh grade and has been convicted 15 times since 1991, mostly for auto theft and drug possession. He has violated the terms of his probation and parole numerous times.
The prosecutor said Hess will be eligible for parole once he has served 85 percent of his term, but is not likely to gain his freedom, given his track record. He said Hess likely will rack up disciplinary problems in prison because he is a hard-core criminal and willing to do anything for the gang.
When he spoke to a probation officer, Hess noted that he has no work experience, other than occasionally selling drugs. He said he adorned his body with swastikas, lightning bolts, skulls, dragons and the phrases "peckerwood" and "pure hate" so he could hold his own behind bars.
"I've been back and forth to prison twenty times," Hess told a probation officer, according to a report that is part of his file. "I've never been out of the street for more than sixty days at a time since my first arrest."
Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2338.