A New Jersey Internet talk show host and blogger was arrested June 24 based “on a Federal complaint … alleging that he made Internet postings threatening to assault and murder three federal appeals court judges in Chicago,” according to an FBI news release. The postings included photographs, phone numbers, work address and room numbers of the judges, along with a photo of the building in which they work and a map of its location.
Hal Turner, 47, of North Bergen, N.J., wrote the posts after the three judges upheld a handgun ban in Chicago and suburban Oak Park, Ill. In the June 2 and June 3 blog posts, Turner wrote, “Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed.”
“We take threats to federal judges very seriously. Period,” Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a statement.
If convicted, threatening to assault or murder a federal judge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Turner, variously described as a white supremacist, a hate blogger and a neo-Nazi, is also facing Connecticut charges of inciting injury against three state officials in a different blogging incident in which he wrote, “It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally. These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die.”
In both cases, Turner claims his First Amendment right to free speech protects him from prosecution.
“Mr. Turner’s comments are above and beyond the threshold of free speech,” Connecticut State Capitol Police Chief Michael J. Fallon said June 5. “He is inciting others through his Website to commit acts of violence and has created fear and alarm. He should be held accountable for his conduct.”
In the Chicago case, Turner’s blog postings revolved around a June 2 handgun decision by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition to suggesting the judges should be killed, Turner made reference to the case of Matt Hale, a white supremacist who was imprisoned after being convicted of soliciting the murder of a U.S. District Court judge in Chicago. The entry further noted that the same judge’s mother and husband were murdered by a gunman in her home.
“Apparently, the 7th U.S. Circuit court didn’t get the hint after those killings. It appears another lesson is needed,” Turner wrote.