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ROANOKE, VA. — After sitting through his own threat trial in Brooklyn, hate blogger Hal Turner may find himself back in a federal courtroom sooner than expected — this time as a witness in a similar case. Turner was on the list of dozens of potential witnesses that a government prosecutor read during the opening day of the trial for Bill White, another notorious white supremacist. White, who led a neo-Nazi group before his arrest, is charged with threatening various people with whom he disagreed.
The government’s witness list included several of White’s alleged victims, including nationally syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Canadian civil rights lawyer Richard Warman and University of Delaware professor Kathleen Kerr. The government prosecutor didn’t say why Turner might be called to testify; Turner’s case ended in a mistrial Monday when a jury couldn’t agree on whether he was guilty of threatening to assault and murder three federal judges. He’s scheduled for retrial in March.
A jury will likely be empanelled today in White’s trial, which is expected to last about 10 days. Lawyers for both sides have been interviewing jurors for hours, focusing on whether they’d be able to give White a fair hearing when confronted with highly offensive testimony, including references to Nazism, swastikas, anti-Semitism, the word “nigger,” and the belief that blacks are sub-human. Lawyers questioned several jurors individually who’d said on a jury questionnaire that Hitler was one of the people they least admired. Given that White has the opposite view, the lawyers wanted to know whether the potential jurors’ distaste for Hitler would prevent them from being impartial.
Many potential jurors have been dismissed because they said they’d heard so much about the case that they couldn’t be fair. One jury pool member was dismissed after saying she didn’t feel comfortable in the same room with other races; another potential juror, who hadn’t been dismissed as of mid-afternoon, said he had a swastika tattooed on his leg, but did not participate in any organized groups that used the Nazi symbol. One potential juror was allowed to leave after saying she was so offended by White’s racism that she wouldn’t feel comfortable serving.
Dressed in a dark suit, the 32-year-old White sat quietly at the defense table during jury selection, occasionally taking notes or whispering to one of his lawyers. White lives in Roanoke but remains in custody after an appeals court overturned the decision of a judge who had released him on bond. As the self-described commander of the American National Socialist Workers Party, White ran the white supremacist website Otherthrow.com on which he published many of the alleged threats. We will post updates as White’s trial progresses.