Internet Radio Talk Show Host Hal Turner Arrested for Threatening Three Federal Appeals Court Judges in Chicago Over Recent Decision Upholding Handgun Bans
CHICAGO -- Hal Turner, an Internet radio talk show host and blogger, was arrested June 24 by FBI agents at his home in North Bergen, N.J., on a federal complaint filed in Chicago alleging that he made Internet postings threatening to assault and murder three federal appeals court judges in Chicago in retaliation for their recent ruling upholding handgun bans in Chicago and a suburb.
Internet postings on June 2 and 3 proclaimed "outrage" over the June 2, 2009, handgun decision by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, further stating, among other things: "Let me be the first to say this plainly: These Judges deserve to be killed." The postings included photographs, phone numbers, work address and room numbers of these judges, along with a photo of the building in which they work and a map of its location.
Turner, 47, of North Bergen, N.J., was arrested this morning after FBI agents went to his residence to execute a search warrant. He was charged with threatening to assault and murder three federal judges with intent to retaliate against them for performing official duties in a criminal complaint filed today in U.S. District Court in Chicago. He was scheduled to have an initial court appearance at 12:30 p.m. June 25 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Shipp in U.S. District Court in Newark.
"We take threats to federal judges very seriously. Period," said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
According to the complaint affidavit, several lawsuits were filed challenging handgun bans in Chicago and suburban Oak Park after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Second Amendment entitles handguns at home for self-protection. On June 2, 2009, the 7th Circuit issued an opinion in National Rifle Association v. Chicago, Nos. 08-4241, 08-4243 & 08-4244, affirming a district court's decision to dismiss the cases challenging the local handgun bans. The unanimous decision was written by Chief Judge Easterbrook and joined by Judges Posner and Bauer.
On June 8, 2009, law enforcement agents were directed to postings on a web site. The front page of the site contained an entry dated June 2, 2009, that was titled: "OUTRAGE: Chicago Gun Ban UPHELD; Court says 'Heller' ruling by Supreme Court not applicable to states or municipalities!" After describing the decision, a lengthy entry followed, which is contained in the complaint affidavit. In addition to proclaiming "These judges deserve to be killed," the entry notes that it was the same 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that decided the case of Matt Hale, a white-supremacist who was imprisoned after being convicted of soliciting the murder of a U.S. District Court judge in Chicago. The entry further noted that the same judge's mother and husband were murdered by a gunman in her home. The posting then stated:
"Apparently, the 7th U.S. Circuit court didn't get the hint after those killings. It appears another lesson is needed."
The complaint charges that the posting was updated the next morning on June 3, 2009, with the following content:
"Judges official public work addresses and a map of the area are below. Their home addresses and maps will follow soon. Behold these devils."
Below this headline, the entry listed the names, photos, phone numbers, work addresses and room numbers of the three judges involved in the handgun decision, as well as a photo of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago and a map. The photo of the building had been modified to include arrows and a label referencing "Anti-truck bomb barriers," according to the affidavit.
If convicted, threatening to assault or murder a federal judge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The court, however, would determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed under the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.