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A Chicago trial judge refused to dismiss one-time Illinois bar applicant Matthew F. Hale from a lawsuit that seeks to hold the avowed white supremacist liable for deadly shooting spree carried out last summer by a former associate. Cook County Associate Judge Joseph N. Casciato said in a three-page memorandum opinion and order issued on Thursday that it would be “premature” to dismiss Hale from the lawsuit, which essentially accuses him of helping plan the shootings. Hale’s attorney, Glenn Greenwald, insists there’s no evidence linking his client to the shootings and implied that none will be found should the plaintiffs’ discovery efforts proceed as expected. Greenwald says he has not decided whether to appeal. According to the lawsuit filed by two victims of Benjamin Smith’s July 1999 shooting spree, Hale, leader of the World Church of the Creator, an organization that espouses hatred of Jews and blacks, ordered Smith to go on his rampage across Illinois and Indiana that left two people dead. The case is Ephraim Wolfe, et al., v. Matt Hale, et al., No. 99L7542. Ephraim Wolfe, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, was among the eleven people injured by Smith. Nosson Cohen, the second plaintiff, was not injured when he was shot near a Rogers Park synagogue on the city’s far North Side. Smith killed himself in downstate Illinois as police closed in on him. He had renounced his membership in the World Church days before the shootings. Greenwald said that the judge’s decision Thursday resulted in the plaintiff’s avoiding the dismissal of a lawsuit based on “totally frivolous accusations.” “The FBI and many media outlets in Illinois investigated these crimes and found no evidence that Matt Hale was involved,” said Greenwald, a partner in New York’s Greenwald, Christoph & Holland. “The plaintiffs attorney has no evidence of that either and that will be revealed.” Michael Ian Bender, the attorney representing Wolfe and Cohen, said that he was glad that he could now prepare to take the case to trial. Hale, who lives in East Peoria, could not be reached for comment. In a hearing on the motion held July 6, Greenwald had sought to dismiss Hale as a defendant because whatever he had told Smith was protected speech under the First Amendment. Greenwald also chastised the vagueness of the complaint, saying it was not easy to understand and that it lacked specifics of what Hale and Smith allegedly did together. But Bender countered that there had been a “meeting of the minds” between Hale and Smith where they planned the shootings, although he did not elaborate. He also disagreed with the First Amendment argument given by Greenwald, Bender said. “The courts are clear. What’s protected is abstract teaching,” Bender said. “When someone goes further than abstract teaching, they can be held responsible.” In his opinion, Casciato agreed with Bender, saying he found “no deprivation” of Hale’s right to free speech. In comments Hale made following last week’s hearing, he said he was confident that he would be dismissed from the lawsuit and denied he “ordered, instructed, or sanctioned” any violence by members of the organization. “There simply is no legal basis to hold me or my church liable,” Hale said. “I had no involvement in the shootings. I’ve said that all along and I will keep saying it.” In March, Casciato had dismissed Smith’s parents as defendants in the lawsuit because they had no ability to control the actions of their son.

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