Lawyer: FBI Paid Right-Wing Blogger Charged With Threats
By David Kravets
(Wired Magazine) – A notorious New Jersey hate blogger charged in June with threatening to kill judges and lawmakers was secretly an FBI “agent provocateur” paid to disseminate right-wing rhetoric, his attorney said Wednesday.
Hal Turner, the blogger and radio personality, remains jailed pending charges over his recent online rants, which prosecutors claim amounted to an invitation for someone to kill Connecticut lawmakers and Chicago federal appeals court judges.
But behind the scenes the reformed white supremacist was holding clandestine meetings with FBI agents who taught him how to spew hate “without crossing the line,” according to his lawyer, Michael Orozco.
“Almost everything was at the behest of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Orozco said in a 45-minute telephone interview from New Jersey. “Their job was to pick up information on the responses of what he was saying and see where that led them. It was an interesting dynamic on what he was being asked to do.”
“He’s a devoted American,” added the lawyer, who claims Turner was paid “tens of thousands of dollars” for his service.
Bill Carter, an FBI spokesman, said in a telephone interview the bureau’s policy is “to neither confirm nor deny whether an individual has an association with the FBI.”
Turner’s alleged 5-year-long bureau stint ended sometime in 2007, Orozco said, the year the mischievous online group, Anonymous, briefly shuttered his site — turnerradionetwork.blogspot.com — with a denial of service attack. At the time, hackers also posted what appeared to be private e-mails between Turner and the FBI.
The e-mails are legitimate, said Orozco. The FBI approached Turner, now 47, in 2002, and he spewed rhetoric about politics, white supremacy, immigration, abortion and other hot-button issues for years in exchange for government cash.
Turner was arrested in June at his apartment in suburban New Jersey.
According to court documents, (.pdf) after a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld a Chicago handgun ban, he blogged that the judges should be “killed.”
“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,” he wrote.
A day later he posted addresses, photos, maps and other identifying information about Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, the authorities said. State charges are also pending in Hartford, Connecticut, where Turner is accused of inciting readers to “take up arms” against state lawmakers.
Though the alleged threats came after his FBI service ended, Orozco said Turner’s relationship with the FBI is relevant to his defense.
“It is not trivial that the very government that trained an individual where the line was is prosecuting him when he has not stepped over the line,” Orozco said.
In addition, he is banking (.pdf) on the First Amendment to save his client’s skin.
“It’s a protected political statement. He opined,” Orozco said. “He said they deserved to be killed. He did not say grab a gun and go out and do what is necessary.”
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