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Inmate admits intent to kill Hispanic

A member of a state prison-based white supremacist gang said he was out to kill another federal inmate during a stabbing incident in a federal court holding cell last July.

As part of his accepting a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Lance Vanderstappen admitted in court that he wanted to kill a man who U.S. marshals said Vanderstappen did not even know, because the man was Hispanic.

"I intentionally tried to kill him," Vanderstappen told U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart.

The incident took place just after Vanderstappen was sentenced on July 12 to serve just over five years in federal prison for one count of violence in aid of racketeering-assault with a dangerous weapon, for stabbing a Utah Prison inmate with a shank in January 2001.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Felice Viti said Vanderstappen was led back to a courthouse holding cell with other federal inmates where surveillance video showed that Vanderstappen went into the back of the cell's toilet area, "defecated" a homemade shank and attacked the victim from behind, stabbing him in the neck and throat numerous times. Viti said the man had to be hospitalized.

Vanderstappen was charged with attempted murder and assault.

In court Thursday, Vanderstappen, who claims to be a member of a white supremacist group, pleaded guilty to attempted murder. In exchange, Viti moved to dismiss the assault count.

When sentenced on Sept. 27, Vanderstappen will face a maximum of 20 more years in prison, although prosecutors indicated they plan to ask the court for a reduction for Vanderstappen taking responsibility for his crime.

In addition, federal prosecutors have asked the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to terminate Vanderstappen's sentence on two assault cases to allow him to be transferred to a federal prison. Viti said a letter has been sent to the board requesting the termination, adding Vanderstappen, who is currently a Utah State Prison inmate, is set to be released in 2016. If the state refuses to release Vanderstappen, he may be allowed to take back his guilty plea in federal court. The request is part of a larger attempt by federal prosecutors to break up a gang to which Vanderstappen belongs and which has been responsible for many assaults and drug dealing within the Utah prison system. Authorities want to scatter members to various federal facilities across the country.

In all, about a dozen prison inmates have been indicted under the federal racketeering statute. Eight members have pleaded guilty to charges, including brothers Steve Mark Swena and Tracy Swena, who are suspected of being the founders of the group.


E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com