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After two juries failed to decide whether he threatened federal judges, hate blogger Hal Turner will face yet another trial in Brooklyn this summer.
Turner’s third trial is scheduled for Aug. 9. When Turner’s second trial ended in a hung jury on March 10, the government left open the possibility that it would not try him again. Randall Samborn, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, declined to comment today on why prosecutors decided to proceed. Turner, 48, is charged with threatening to assault and murder three Chicago judges who essentially upheld a local handgun ban.
Prosecutors likely will have to contend once again with Turner’s past history as a confidential FBI informant, which allowed his defense lawyers to argue that the government encouraged Turner’s rhetoric. (Turner wrote on his blog that the judges “deserve to be killed” and published their exact work locations.) This time, however, Turner will be represented by the Brooklyn district’s head federal public defender, Peter Kirchheimer; Turner decided to change his legal team at the end of his last trial because he wanted “a new set of eyes” working on the case, according to his family’s blog. U.S. District Judge Donald Walter declared mistrials in December and March after juries said they were deadlocked.
Although Turner is under court order not to use the internet or talk to the media, relatives have been blogging voluminously about his case. In recent posts, they dished about his work for the FBI, complained that his first two trials were “rigged” and blamed the government for his recent financial woes. “The United States government has jailed, prosecuted and twice put on trial Hal Turner for nothing more than an editorial opinion,” they wrote on Friday. “The draconian restrictions placed on Turner forced him into bankruptcy and deprived him of his civil rights for 9 months.”
Turner, who said he was paid more than $100,000 during his four years as an informant, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in February. According to court documents, he hasn’t worked for more than six months and earned no income in 2010 or 2009, when his website and internet talk show shut down following his arrest. The bankruptcy petition showed that he had more than $95,000 in debt and less than $3,500 in assets, which consisted of household goods and furniture, used clothes, jewelry, four computers, and his website and radio show, valued at $1. His wife’s sole income came from an $860 monthly pension. (The couple, who live in North Bergen, N.J., has a teenage son.) Turner mostly owes money to credit card companies, though his wife — from whom he is separated — is also a creditor, along with his mother, who loaned him $7,000.