Blogger Charged With Threatening 7th Circuit Judges Gets Home Confinement
The National Law Journal
September 15, 2009
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U.S. District Judge Donald Walter has ordered the release of Internet blogger and Web talk show host Hal Turner, who was arrested in June for declaring in an online posting that three Chicago-based federal judges "deserve to be killed."
Turner is on his way back to his home state of New Jersey after Walter decided in a Wednesday conference call meeting with lawyers that Turner could be released under "strict conditions," including a prohibition on his speaking to the media, home confinement and electronic monitoring, said Michael Oroczo, who represents Turner. He said his client was currently in the U.S. Marshal Service's custody in Oklahoma City as he's being transferred to New Jersey.
"The government didn't even come close to proving he was a danger to the public," said Oroczo of Newark, N.J.'s Bailey & Oroczo.
In the conference call, federal prosecutors from the Northern District of Illinois argued, as they had previously in court, that Turner should remain in custody, said Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago. The release order by Walter, a U.S. district judge from Western Louisiana who was assigned the case to avoid potential bias, runs counter to a decision made last month by Chicago-based U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Ashman, who found that Turner should remain in custody until his trial. It's not clear if a bond amount was set for the release.
Turner was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago with threatening to assault and murder three judges in retaliation for a June 2 decision they made. In a Web posting the same day, Turner called the 7th Circuit ruling, which declined to overturn laws banning handguns in Chicago and a nearby suburb, an "outrage" and said that the judges behind the decision "deserve to be killed." The judges who decided the case were Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, Judge Richard Posner and Judge William Bauer. In a second posting on June 3, Turner provided the names, work addresses, phone numbers and photos of the judges.
Walter last week also allowed Turner's case to be transferred to the Eastern District of New York, granting his request for a change of venue from Chicago to Brooklyn. Walter granted the venue change partly because he agreed the defendant would have a harder time getting a fair trial in Chicago where there was significant media coverage of the 2005 murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's mother and husband. Turner said in his postings that federal judges in Chicago hadn't gotten "the hint" from those killings.
"Memories are not so short as to erase the event from the public mind," Walter wrote in a Sept. 8 decision. "On balance, it is this court's opinion that granting the motion would best serve, not only justice, but the appearance of justice.
Walter also allowed the postponement of the trial from Oct. 5 to Nov. 30. Samborn declined to comment on whether the Chicago-based prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Hogan and William Ridgway, will remain on the case or whether it will be transferred to another U.S. Attorney's office.