Wednesday, December 02, 2009
THE LATEST ON VALHALLA
As opening arguments were presented earlier today it became obvious that the next few days might be tedious at best as the prosecution wades through what they believe is enough evidence to convict Turner and put him away for a pretty long stretch. This writer, however, thinks that their battle might very well be all uphill considering what has been widely reported to be Turner's close association with federal law-enforcement.
TO ORIGINAL SOURCE
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Hal Turner, the North Bergen ultra-right wing shock jock and FBI informant, was depicted as either a terrorist or a harmless showman in opening arguments Wednesday in his federal trial on charges that he threatened to kill federal judges.
In his response, Turner’s lead defense attorney, Michael Orozco, countered that Turner was merely exercising his right of free speech when he wrote on his blog last June that three federal appeals court judges “deserved to be killed” for upholding a ban on handguns in Chicago.
“This case is nothing short of a witch hunt,” said Orozco.
Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, Governor-elect Chris Christie said that US Attorney Paul Fishman, who holds Christie's former job, has been subpoenaed by Turner’s lawyers. On Tuesday, Christie was subpoenaed. He said that he forwarded his subpoena to Fishman’s office.
“They’re going to interact with the court in Brooklyn [about] whether or not my testimony will be appropriate or required and so I leave it to them to handle,” Christie said. “Whatever the appropriate thing to do is, I’ll do. Beyond that, because I’m under subpoena, I should probably not talk about the substance today.”
One of the goals of Turner’s defense is to show that federal prosecutors – including Christie – declined to charge Turner with threatening remarks on his radio show or blog. It’s not clear if Christie and Fishman will try to block their subpoenas.
In his opening remarks, Hogan spoke for more than his allotted one-hour time limit and was cut off by U.S. District Court Judge Donald Walter. Orozco spoke for less than 30 minutes.
But, in what may be a sign of how contentious the trial may be, both sides raised several objections during openings.
“This is not just political rhetoric,” said Hogan of Turner’s blog posting against the appellate judges and “is not protected by the First Amendment.”
On several occasions, Hogan attempted to downplay Turner’s FBI ties, which were outlined in an investigative article on Sunday in The Record.
“Hal Turner was kicked out as an informant because he stepped over the line,” Hogan said. “Certainly the FBI was not in the business of instructing Hal Turner what to write on his blog.”
Orozco bluntly disagreed when he rose to address the jury.
“This is a battle over the very right that you hold dear,” he said. “I’m talking about the right to openly criticize judicial officials.”
Orozco described Turner as a productive informant – and an entertainer.
“Mr. Turner was nothing but a shock jock, a radio personality whose hand was guided by the FBI,” Orozco said.
Orozco also in his opening statement said that as an informant Turner discussed “assassinations of foreign heads of state.” Orozco did not elaborate, and he declined to comment when asked later.
After opening statements, a string of FBI agents took the stand to testify about Turner’s blog and his work as an informant. In several cases, Turner, smiling widely, stood and waved to agents he recognized, including the agent who arrested him, and another who supervised him as an informant.
Amy Pickett, now the third highest ranking FBI agent in the bureau’s New York City field office, said Turner was never told he could use violent threats when she supervised him as an informant when she worked with Newark-based Joint Terrorism Task Force and knew him by the code name, “Valhalla.”
Pickett said Turner’s information was considered valuable by the FBI. But she said he quit briefly as an informant when the FBI asked him to remove threatening statements from his blog.
Posted by Nikki at 12/02/2009 07:09:00 PM