The conviction of right-wing Internet radio host Harold C. Turner of threatening three federal judges sets the stage for an interesting appellate fight over the first amendment. The case involving some of the best known Seventh Circuit judges — William J. Bauer, Frank H. Easterbrook and Richard A. Posner — was heard in New York by a Brooklyn jury. Two prior trials led to mistrials.
Turner, 48, was charged after he posted inflammatory Internet messages about the three appeals court judges after they upheld a ban of handguns in Chicago in a ruling later reversed by the Supreme Court. In a June 2009 posting, he wrote, “If they are allowed to get away with this by surviving, other judges will act the same way.” He was charged with a single count of threatening to assault or kill the judges with the intent of impeding their official duties.
It is a case that turns on the protection of so called “violent speech,” the subject of a prior column.
Turner also said the judges “deserve to be killed.” I have serious reservations about the basis for a prosecution for such speech — absent any action to harm the judges.
The trial was also interesting by the disclosure that Turner had worked with the FBI to uncover extremists. This site is popular with Nazis and white supremacists.
He now faces maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Source: New York Times