NJ governor-elect subpoenaed by blogger accused of threatening federal judges

By David Porter, AP
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blogger accused of crimes subpoenas NJ gov-elect

NEWARK, N.J. — A New Jersey blogger scheduled to go on trial next week on charges that he threatened three federal judges in hate-filled postings has subpoenaed the state’s governor-elect to testify on his behalf.

Harold “Hal” Turner of North Bergen claims that he was a federal government informant and that the postings targeting the judges and other inflammatory statements were part of an undercover operation to ferret out violent left-wing radicals.

In an affidavit filed with the subpoena, Turner lawyer Michael Orozco says Gov.-elect Chris Christie knew of Turner’s activities between 2002 and 2008 while Christie was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Orozco says Christie issued a letter saying he would not prosecute Turner for his statements.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Orozco said the U.S. Attorney’s Office referred to the letter in one of hundreds of pages of documents provided to him by prosecutors as part of routine preparation for trial.

“If it was issued, it would have come across Mr. Christie’s desk,” Orozco said. “No U.S. attorney would allow such a letter to be drafted or issued unless he was aware of it.”

Christie said Tuesday afternoon that he had not seen the subpoena. But “Any advice I gave as U.S. attorney regarding prosecutions is something I am not going to talk about publicly,” he said.

Turner is scheduled for trial Dec. 1 in federal court in New York. He is accused of making death threats against three Chicago-based federal appeals judges after saying in Internet postings in June the judges “deserve to be killed” because they had refused to overturn handgun bans in Chicago and suburban Oak Park.

The postings included the photos and work addresses of the judges — Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, and William Bauer — along with a picture of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago and notations indicating the placement of “anti-truck bomb barriers.”

In September, a federal judge in Chicago granted Orozco’s request to move the trial because of widespread publicity.

In the affidavit, Orozco says that Turner was approached by federal authorities in 2002 to “act as an agent provocateur; to make statements that would bring out left-wing radicals to commit acts of violence” because the government already had enough informants among white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

The affidavit says Turner eventually worked with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and was instructed on how to frame his postings so that he would avoid criminal prosecution.

In a separate case, Turner was charged with “inciting injury to persons” for urging blog readers to “take up arms” against Connecticut lawmakers who proposed legislation to give Roman Catholic lay members more control over parish finances.

Also, in 2005, Turner was questioned after U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow found her mother and husband shot to death in her home in Chicago. Lefkow had been targeted by a white supremacist who had objected to her ruling in a trademark dispute. According to Turner, federal authorities focused on him because two years earlier he said on the air that Lefkow “was worthy of being killed.”

Two phone numbers listed for Turner in northern New Jersey were not in service Tuesday.

Associated Press Writer Beth DeFalco in Jersey City contributed to this story.

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