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Thread: Blogger Who Threatened Judges Is Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison.

  1. #1
    Regular Member neuroblades's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
    , Kentucky, USA

    Blogger Who Threatened Judges Is Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison.

    Harold "Hal" Turner, the blogger and Internet radio host convicted of threatening three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison.

    The charges stemmed from a series of Internet posts Mr. Turner wrote in June 2009 after the three judges—Frank Easterbrook, Richard Posner and William Bauer—upheld two Chicago-area gun bans.

    "'The tree of liberty must be replenished from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots,'" Mr. Turner wrote in one post, quoting Thomas Jefferson.

    He added, "It is time to replenish the tree! Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions."

    Following two hung juries, a third Brooklyn federal jury convicted Mr. Turner in August of the single count against him, violating 18 U.S.C. 115(a)(1)(B), which prohibits threats to assault or murder judges "with the intent to impede, intimidate, or interfere with" their work.

    The 33-month sentence was handed down yesterday by Judge Donald Walter of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, who had been sitting in Chicago by assignment and then transferred the case to Brooklyn.

    The sentence represented the bottom of the 33-to-44-month guideline sentence and less than half of the six-year maximum sentence. With credit for time served, Mr. Turner faces approximately 18 more months in prison.

    Mr. Turner's three trials have attracted much attention over the past year, in part because of his violent threats, in part because of the unique First Amendment issues and in part because three sitting federal appellate judges twice flew to New York from Chicago to testify against him.

    Turner I, in December 2009, resulted in a 9-3 deadlock. The Chicago judges did not appear at the first trial, and one juror complained to reporters that the prosecutors from the office of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, should have presented more evidence.

    Turner II in March starred the three judges, who flew in for the day and testified before a standing-room-only crowd of reporters, judges, attorneys and court buffs.
    Justice Easterbrook, who was both humorous and contentious, stole the show.
    When asked how he initially felt about the posts, Judge Easterbrook replied, "A principal concern was that somebody would try to come kill me or shoot me or blow me up."

    But the jury still could not agree on a verdict, and Judge Walter again declared a mistrial.
    For the third trial in August, Chicago Assistant U.S. Attorneys Diane MacArthur and William Ridgway took over for William R. Hogan Jr., and on the defense side, Peter Kirchheimer, the chief of the Brooklyn Federal Defenders Office, replaced Michael A. Orozco and Nishay Kumar Sanan.
    This time, after a three-day trial, it took the jury less than two hours to find Mr. Turner guilty.
    At yesterday's sentencing, the prosecution briefly argued that Mr. Turner's actions were not protected speech and that the threats merited six years in prison—more than the guideline range of 33-to-44 months.

    Mr. Turner gave a rambling, nearly hour-long speech in his own defense.
    Wearing a blue prison smock over a white shirt, he accused the court of committing "a sort of legal skullduggery" by "changing the legal definition of a threat." He also likened his three trials to a "three-ring circus," for which Judge Walter was "more like a ringmaster than a judge."
    "I love America, I've made America safer," said Mr. Turner, who cried at various points throughout his speech. "Honest to God, I don't believe I violated the law."

    Judge Walter quickly and unemotionally sentenced Mr. Turner to 33 months, as well as six months of house arrest. He also imposed a ban on operating any Internet sites or participating in any radio broadcasts during the three years of Mr. Turner's post-release supervision. The judge did not discuss how he reached his conclusion.

    As the marshals led Mr. Turner out of the courtroom, he called out to his family, "Come visit tonight. I'll be up in the SHU [solitary housing unit]. Everything's going to be OK."

    Mr. Fitzgerald said in a statement, "The criminal justice system simply could not function if an individual's efforts to intimidate a judge through threats of violence were protected from prosecution and punishment. We live in a system where judges should be able to do their jobs and not have to look over their shoulders."

    Mr. Turner's attorney, Ronald G. Russo of Schlam, Stone & Dolan, who took over for Mr. Kirchheimer, said, "This really goes to the heart of what we can say about the people who govern us. The government went after him like a devil."

    He said he intends to appeal.

    Last edited by neuroblades; 12-22-2010 at 10:10 PM.

  2. #2
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    Granite State of Mind
    The surprising thing is that he was even charged. He was a paid FBI informant, which pretty well translates to agent provocateur.
    Last edited by KBCraig; 12-23-2010 at 07:23 PM.

  3. #3
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    Mar 2010
    This kind of reminds me of the Salman Rushdie incident where people publicly declared that he should be killed as well though that was more along the lines of influential people ordering the killing as opposed to an influential person suggesting it.

    I think Mr. Turner made a big mistake with his choice of words and broadcasting those to a large audience. Now, if he would have said them in private to a group of friends and it was discovered, maybe he would have gotten away with it but there is also a chance that the government could twist that into some conspiracy charge as well.

    If you were a member of a militia and drew up plans for a SHTF scenario such that it has your group directly and violently standing up to (or defending itself against) some kind of government entity, they may just come after you on some kind of conspiracy charges though these are contingency plans for hypothetical and extreme scenarios. I am also thinking along the lines of the attacks on the Hutaree, a Christian militia in Michigan.

  4. #4
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    Fairfax Co., VA
    Quote Originally Posted by Claytron View Post
    while i agree that it is inappropriate to say what he did, i still dont see how its considered a threat. "Im going to kill" is a threat, "should be killed" is an opinion.
    +1 Like Turner said, they changed the meaning of the word "threat."

    Dammit. There went the strategy to incite insurrection by naming one government official at a time to be turned out of office at gunpoint, but naming every single one.
    Last edited by Citizen; 12-24-2010 at 03:13 AM.

  5. #5
    Founder's Club Member ixtow's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Suwannee County, FL
    I've written letters directly to Judges, Legislators, and LEOs (ATF) that said damn near the same thing.... Why aren't I in court?

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