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Jury out in Aryan Brotherhood trial

After several days of testimony, it is now up to a federal jury to decide if the last two defendants of 17 Aryan Brotherhood members indicted in April 2015 after a two-year investigation are guilty of con- spiracy, drug dealing and murder.

Franks George Owens Jr. of D’Iberville and Eric Parker of Petal pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking and murder charges. Owens is charged with conspiracy to participate in racketeering, kidnapping and the 2010 murder of fellow Aryan Brotherhood member Michael James Hudson and attempted murder of Jeremy Bailey. Parker is charged with conspiracy, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and the murder of Hudson.

The trial started April 4 at the Federal Courthouse in Oxford and concluded with closing arguments about 4 p.m. Tuesday. The jury deliberated for about two hours before being released for the evening. They are back in court today where they will continue to review evidence before rendering a verdict.

A total of 17 people were indicted; however, all but Owens and Parker have pleaded guilty and many were witnesses for the government’s case against Owens and Parker.

During the trial, witnesses said Hudson denied a director order from Owens and failed to pay Parker for drugs. Hudson was suppose to be beat and taught a lesson. However, witnesses said “things got out of control,” and Hudson was killed. Owens and Parker then allegedly put his body in a 5-gallon drum and with the help of one of the other defendants, burned the body for five days before dumping the barrel into the river. His body was never recovered.

William Andy Sumrall of Jackson, representing Owens, told the jury that they could not convict his client of murder if there is no proof a murder occurred.

Hudson’s mother testified she hasn’t heard from her son in five years. Cellphone records showed his last call was bounced off a cell tower 1 mile away from where the murder allegedly occurred.

Owens earned his “lightning bolts” and the status of ABM executioner for his alleged role in the homicide, according to court documents.

Attorney Josh Turner, representing Parker, told the jury the Aryan Brotherhood was not on trial and that most of the testimony offered during the trial was “comprised,” and made by meth addicts and those offering to say whatever the government wanted to get a better deal for themselves.

“This isn’t a James Patterson novel or John Grisham book,” he said. “This is a case that should be based on facts.”

Scott Leary, an assistant U.S. Attorney, said Tuesday that while there were small inconsistencies in some of the testimony of some of the witnesses who were named in the original indictment, the overall testimony was consistent.

“The only two people who truly knew what happened to Hudson were sitting in the courtroom and it’s these two men right here,” he said, pointing at Owens and Parker. “They bring violence, chaos, drugs, guns, assaults, kidnapping and murder to Mississippi.”

Drugs and funds were allegedly smuggled from California to Mississippi, and contraband was smuggled into the prison system, court records show.