A notorious New Jersey hate blogger charged in June with threatening to kill judges and lawmakers was secretly an FBI “agent provocateur” paid to disseminate right-wing rhetoric, his attorney said Wednesday.
Hal Turner, the blogger and radio personality, remains jailed pending charges over his recent online rants, which prosecutors claim amounted to an invitation for someone to kill Connecticut lawmakers and Chicago federal appeals court judges.
But behind the scenes the reformed white supremacist was holding clandestine meetings with FBI agents who taught him how to spew hate “without crossing the line,” according to his lawyer, Michael Orozco.
Unfortunately for him, Turner can’t blame the FBI for the comments that got him in trouble with the law. His claimed involvement with the Bureau ended in 2007, and his alleged threats against the Seventh Circuit judges were made in 2009.
More discussion about Turner’s case — plus comment from one of the threatened jurists, Judge Richard Posner — after the jump.
Sorry — we kinda led you on there, readers. Judge Posner declined to comment on the case, via email:
David — I can’t comment on the Turner case; as a “victim,” I might have to testify.
Actually, even Judge Posner’s “no comment” is interesting. Why did he put “victim” in quotation marks? Are those scare quotes? Does he not see himself as a true victim?
Do you see the judges as victims? Here’s a description of what Turner did and said, from Wired:
According to court documents, (.pdf) after a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld a Chicago handgun ban, he blogged that the judges should be “killed.”
“Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions,” he wrote.
A day later he posted addresses, photos, maps and other identifying information about Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, the authorities said.
Hal Turner’s lawyer argues that these comments were (1) not sufficient to constitute a threat and (2) protected by the First Amendment.
“It’s a protected political statement. He opined,” [attorney Michael] Orozco said. “He said they deserved to be killed. He did not say grab a gun and go out and do what is necessary.”
One federal judge — Judge Joan Lefkow (N.D. Ill.), whose husband and mother were killed in 2005 by a disgruntled litigant — seems to be on the fence about the Hal Turner case. At the recent ABA annual conference, she described the Turner case, then remarked:
“We’re probably all saying to ourselves, ‘Well, is that enough to constitute a threat under the law?’ and I honestly don’t know,” she said just before reading the relevant statute [18 U.S.C. § 115] out loud. “I don’t know if that’s a threat or not.”
So, readers, what do you think? Did Turner — by saying “[t]hese judges deserve to be killed,” and then providing personal information about the judges — threaten federal judges, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 115?
(If you’d like to make a more informed decision before voting, you can read the details of his alleged offense conduct here (PDF).)
Lawyer: FBI Paid Right-Wing Blogger Charged With Threats [Threat Level / Wired]
Scenes from Chicago: The Reality of Threats [National Law Journal (subscription)]
No bail for Web show host who said judges deserve to die [National Law Journal]