A local news item reports that a Brooklyn federal jury in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York found internet radio host and blogger Harold (Hal) Turner, of North Bergen, NJ, guilty of threatening three Chicago federal judges. In June 2009, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office in Chicago charged Turner with threatening judges Frank Easterbrook, Richard Posner and William Bauer in website postings because of their June 2009 ruling upholding handgun bans in Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois. The case was moved from Illinois to Brooklyn to ensure a fair trial. Two earlier trials in Brooklyn ended with hung juries in March and December. The jury in the latest trial, where US District Judge Donald E. Walter presided, deliberated less than two hours before rendering its decision.
An ABA Journal article Posner Admirers Crowd Trial Over Blogger’s Online Rant Against 7th Circuit Panel reports that Brooklyn Law School student Kevin Turton, Class of 2012 and a summer intern in the Brooklyn federal court was in the courtroom to listen to Judge Posner’s testimony. Having read one of Posner’s books (the BLS Library’s catalog lists 53 items for which Judge Posner is author), Turton said “He has somewhat of a celebrity status to us. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see him in person, to see him react in a courtroom setting as a witness.”
Turner’s blog posting included statements such as “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.” Prosecutors claim Turner wrote approvingly on his blog of the February 2005 slaying of US District Judge Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother by a disgruntled litigant. He wrote on his blog “Hope you think your job was worth what it seems to have cost you. Every other federal judge should take a good hard look. White people are tired of being pushed around by this government. We are slow to anger, but when we reach our limit, it isn’t pretty.”
At trial, Turned testified that he served as an FBI informant from 2003 to 2007 and had alerted the government to threats against President Barack Obama. Turner said the FBI explained to him how far he could go in his speech without violating the law. Defense lawyers focused attention on his long and complicated relationship as a paid informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Prosecutors portrayed Turner as a dangerous white supremacist who suggested that three judges deserved to be killed. His conviction under 18 U.S.C. 115(a)(1)(b) subjects him to imprisonment for not more than 10 years under 18 U.S.C. 115(b)(4) and a fine of not more than $250,000 is available as an alternative or supplementary sanction.