Saturday, August 14, 2010

Third Time Is The Charm: Hal Turner Convicted On Threatening Federal Judges

After two prior mistrials, the third jury convicted New Jersey talk radio host Hal Turner of threatening three federal court judges.
Two previous prosecutions of the host, Harold C. Turner, ended in mistrials after jurors were unable to agree on a verdict, but the decision Friday came after less than two hours of deliberation.

Mr. Turner, 48, posted inflammatory Internet messages about the three appeals court judges who had upheld a ban of handguns in Chicago. He was charged with a single count of threatening to assault or kill the judges with the intent of impeding their official duties.

In a June 2009 posting about their unanimous decision to uphold the gun ban, which the Supreme Court overturned in June, Mr. Turner wrote, “If they are allowed to get away with this by surviving, other judges will act the same way.”

Mr. Turner, who lives in North Bergen, N.J., also wrote a blog entry accompanied by photos of the judges in which he said they “deserve to be killed.”

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, where the appeals court is, issued a statement saying, “We are grateful that the jury saw these threats for what they were and rejected any notion that they were acceptable speech.”

Mr. Turner’s lawyer, Peter Kirchhheimer, had no comment on the verdict. Federal prosecutors said the posting constituted a genuine threat.

Mr. Turner, who has said his audience includes members of the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation, and who once proclaimed that he would be “honored” to take credit for the murder of a federal judge’s family, countered that the incendiary invective was protected speech. He testified that in saying the judges were worthy of death, he was expressing a critical opinion, not issuing a directive.

But the judges — William J. Bauer, Frank H. Easterbrook and Richard A. Posner — testified that they had felt imperiled by Mr. Turner’s posting.

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