White Supremacist Leader Arrested for Threatening Federal Judges

easterbrookposnerA white supremacist blogger, Hal Turner, 47, has been arrested for allegedly posting threatening messages about three federal judges in Chicago. Turner was upset with the decision to uphold a handgun ban in Chicago. The judges are Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, Judge Richard Posner, and Judge William Bauer. Turner is the host of the Hal Turner Show.

In his posting, Turner wrote “Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed.”

That statement alone might not be enough to cross the line established by the Supreme Court in 1969 in Brandenburg v. Ohio as advocating imminent violence. Violent speech is protected under the Constitution absent such a threat of imminent violence.

However, Turner went further and posted the work addresses of the judges as well as their photos — while promising to later supply their home addresses. He also included a map that showed where the anti-truck pylons were located.

Even with the addition of the addresses and map, I am not sure that this is unprotected speech. The location of the court building is public information. Moreover, many groups have protested at the homes of judges and politicians. It will be interesting to see what the prosecutors cite as moving this speech over the line under Brandenburg. Obviously, this was a stupid and reprehensible statement made by an extremist. He may, however, have a viable free speech claim to raise with the court.

This is a signature form of speech for Turner. When judges ruled against white supremacist Matt Hale in 2005, Turner also publicized the names and addresses of the judges. In 2006, he used the same violent language with regard to disfavored politicians:

“We may have to ASSASSINATE some of the people you elect on Nov. 7! This could be your LAST ELECTION CHANCE, to save this Republic… Sorry to have to be so blunt, but the country is in mortal danger from our present government and our liberty is already near dead because of this government. If you are too stupid to turn things around with your vote, there are people out here like me who are willing to turn things around with guns, force and violence. We hope our method does not become necessary.”

In 2008, he called for direct violent against against Lexington, Massachusetts school superintendent Paul Ash for creating a curriculum supporting gays and lesbians:

“I advocate parents using FORCE AND VIOLENCE against Superintendent Paul B. Ash as a method of defending the health and safety of school children presently being endangered through his politically-correct indoctrination into deadly, disease-ridden sodomite lifestyles.”

This past use of such violent language could curiously support Turner to show that there is no imminent danger since no violence followed such writings over the years. It does seem that Turner has only two political responses in dealing with contemporary policy issues: professed agreement and assassination. However, the constitutional question is whether this is merely over-heated and juvenile language or an actual instigation of assassinations.

Ironically, Easterbrook and Posner are not liberal activists but conservative icons. Both are former law professors who have written highly influential works. In Posner’s case, he is viewed as the virtual father of the Law and Economics school. He writes a book roughly every thirty seconds, usually with the title “The Economic of . . . ” Indeed, I expect that next week we will see a new book entitled “The Economics of Imminent Threats.”

The decision by Easterbrook, Posner and Bauer on the gun ban may have pushed Turner over the edge, but it was a saving grace for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who has been under fire for her support of the same logic in a Second Circuit case, here.

For the full story, click here.

29 thoughts on “White Supremacist Leader Arrested for Threatening Federal Judges”

  1. I’m with you guys on Marcus Aurelius (that’s actually my oldest son’s name).

    I’m not a lawyer. I’m a middle school social studies teacher. As uncomfortable as Turner’s speech may be, I still think it has to be protected. I belong to the camp that thinks that the proper response to such lunatics is to ridicule them publicly. You can’t (and probably shouldn’t try) to prevent hateful speech. That’s too much power for the government to enjoy.

  2. Buddah:

    I knew I liked you for some reason. Aurelius was certainly the most sagacious of the Emperors, but you know my particular admiration of Vespasian. However, your choice is seductive too.

  3. mespo,

    One of my favorites is

    “If anyone is able to convince me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change, for I seek the truth by which no one was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance.”

    Oh so apt for some other threads here, no?

    There are four books in my bathroom.

    The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, The Tao Te Ching, “Brain Droppings” and “Napalm and Silly Putty” by George Carlin.

    But unlike the other three, I also carried a copy of Marcus in my car for years. He was probably my favorite Emperor. Quite a guy.

  4. Mike A.,
    I also thank you for your review of Brandenburg. I am usually more inclined to be closer to an absolutist when it comes to the First Amendment, but this guy is a ticking time bomb and I am more afraid of those who listen to him. The aiding and abetting discussion might be very appropriate when discussing this homegrown terrorist’s actions and words.

  5. Mespo72:

    “A fair reading would include the actions of Hal Turner here, wouldn’t you agree?”

    Leave it up to an attorney to foster reasonable doubt. I still say no, but…

  6. Mike A:

    As pretentious and unlikely as it may sound, I was reading Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” tonight and this verse from Book 4 struck my eye:

    “A man should always have these two rules in readiness; the one, to do only whatever the reason of the ruling and legislating faculty may suggest for the use of men; the other, to change thy opinion, if there is any one at hand who sets thee right and moves thee from any opinion. But this change of opinion must proceed only from a certain persuasion, as of what is just or of common advantage, and the like, not because it appears pleasant or brings reputation.”

    Like the great Roman Philosopher-King, I pay homage to your intellect and your ability to modify your opinion based on well reasoned debate. I also recommend this paramount work of Stoicism to you.

  7. Mike A,

    Once again our good friend FFLEO is right on. You’re an honorable man.

  8. Here’s a definiton of aiding and abetting a crime by veteran Richmond lawyer Ken Christman:

    “A criminal charge of aiding and abetting or accessory can usually be brought against anyone who helps in the commission of a crime, though legal distinctions vary by state. A person charged with aiding and abetting or accessory is usually not present when the crime itself is committed, but he or she has knowledge of the crime before or after the fact, and may assist in its commission through advice, actions, or financial support. Depending on the degree of involvement, the offender’s participation in the crime may rise to the level of conspiracy.

    For example, Andy draws a floor plan of a bank, knowing of Dan’s intention to rob it. After Dan commits the robbery, Alice agrees to let him store the stolen money at her house. Both Andy and Alice can be charged with aiding and abetting, or acting as accessories to the robbery.”

    A fair reading would include the actions of Hal Turner here, wouldn’t you agree?

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