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7th Circuit Judges May Testify in Retrial Over Web ThreatsFederal prosecutors are beefing up their case against Web radio talk show host Harold "Hal" Turner, charged with encouraging listeners to murder three federal appellate judges. In Turner's retrial, which starts next week in New York, prosecutors plan to call those judges to the stand. Turner was indicted after he posted Internet messages that said the judges "deserve to be killed" for allowing a Chicago handgun ban to stand. Turner has argued that he's just a shock jock exercising his First Amendment rights.
The National Law Journal2010-02-26 12:00:00 AM
Federal prosecutors are beefing up their case against Web radio talk show host Harold "Hal" Turner, charged with encouraging listeners to murder three federal appellate judges. In Turner's retrial, which starts next week in Brooklyn, N.Y., prosecutors plan to call those judges to the stand.
Last week the prosecutors, who work in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago, overcame objections from Turner's lawyer, Michael Orozco, and won permission to have the three judges from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago provide testimony, according to documents filed in the case. The targets of Turner's vitriol were Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, Judge Richard Posner and Judge William Bauer, a former U.S. Attorney in Chicago.
Turner was indicted last June after he posted Internet messages that said the judges "deserve to be killed" for their June 2 ruling allowing a Chicago handgun ban to stand. (The same ban is now being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.) In a June 3 post, Turner provided the names, work addresses, phone numbers and photos of Easterbrook, Posner and Bauer. He called them "traitors" and said "their blood will replenish the tree of liberty."
Turner has pleaded not guilty, arguing that he's just a shock jock exercising his First Amendment rights and that he never intended any harm against the judges. His lawyer, Michael Orozco of Bailey & Orozco in Newark, N.J, also won permission from the trial judge to submit evidence that Turner was once a paid FBI informant who attended extremist group meetings and then provided information to the bureau.
Prosecutors William Hogan and William Ridgeway contend that Turner's Web rant against the judges constitutes a "true threat" and isn't protected speech. The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the upcoming trial, as did Orozco.
There was a mistrial in Turner's case last December when jurors were unable to agree on a verdict. Jury selection in the retrial starts March 1. The venue for the trials was moved to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on the defense's contention that Turner couldn't get a fair trial in the city where the judges work.
Judge Donald Walter of the Western District of Louisiana was appointed to oversee the case to avoid a conflict of interest for judges in the Northern District of Illinois.