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Neo-Nazi Bill White Facing Jury Intimidation Trial

By Larry Keller on June 28, 2010 - 4:34 pm, Posted in Neo-Nazi

Former neo-Nazi leader Bill White, already doing time in a federal prison, may face trial in a separate case of allegedly encouraging violence against a jury foreman.

A federal judge in Chicago ruled 11 months ago that when White posted personal information, including the home address and phone numbers of the jury foreman in the trial of another neo-Nazi, Matt Hale, the First Amendment allowed White to legally do so. The judge dismissed the indictment charging White with soliciting harm against the juror. The government had maintained that White knew his now-defunct website was viewed by white supremacists who sometimes harm people they view as traitors to the white race.

The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court judge today, ruling that a jury must be allowed to decide whether White’s actions were protected under the First Amendment. The appeals court sent the case back to the district court judge for further proceedings “consistent with this opinion.”

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago declined to comment on the ruling. White’s attorney did not return a phone message.

One of the cases the appeals court cited in its decision was that of Hale. He was convicted in 2004 of soliciting the murder of a federal judge in Chicago and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Hale did not overtly ask another man to kill the judge, the appeals court noted. He asked the other man to find the judge’s home address, and said things such as, “If you wish to, ah, do anything yourself, you can, you know? I’m gonna fight within the law.”

The appeals court said today “a request for criminal action [that] is coded or implicit does not change its characterization as a solicitation.”

A jury is entitled to hear White’s case in order to determine his intent — to have somebody harmed or merely to make a political statement — by posting personal information about the jury foreman in the Hale case, the Seventh Circuit ruled.

“The government has laid out the elements of the crime and the statute that White is accused of violating, along with some specific factual allegations for support, and that is all it is required to do,” the appeals court stated. “The question of White’s intent and the inferences that can be drawn from the facts are for a jury to decide, as the indictment is adequate to charge the crime of solicitation.”

White, who led the American National Socialist Workers Party, will have to ponder this development from a federal prison cell in a medium-security facility in Beckley, W.V. He was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison in April following his conviction in Roanoke, Va., of three counts of making threats against perceived enemies. The judge dismissed a fourth count on which White had been convicted. In that case, White threatened a bank employee, a university professor and tenants of a Virginia Beach apartment complex via his website, E-mail, the telephone and the U.S. mail. His projected release date is Dec. 26 of this year.

  • beholder

    Thanks for that, Mitch. I didn’t have time to research all the relevant cases but am intrigued none the less.

    By reading this opinion, I still believe that it is highly favorable toward achieving more indictments for hate speech that can be interpeted as solicitation. If a prosecutor has enough evidence to indict, it should go to a jury to determine intent. If a prosecutor had to prove intent of speech before going forward with the indictment, as I interpret the district judge’s ruling vis-a-vis protected speech, then it makes the prosecutor’s job that much more difficult and puts it upon the judge and not the people to determine intent.

    As long as it goes to a jury there is a chance of conviction. That alone should do something to reduce the worst of the worst in digital hate speech and intimidation.

    This is not to say that I welcome any indictments for mere expressions of conscience (no matter how reprehensible I find them personally), but the willful disregard for the potential to harm others through speech and intentionally dancing close to that line should not go without notice by prosecutors.

  • Mitch Beales

    As far as I can tell some of the analyses in the comments above are off the mark. The point is that White’s speech is protected if it is “advocacy” but not if it is “solicitation.” A jury needs to decide which of these it is based on the evidence. You can find links to the opinion as well as the oral arguments on the Seventh Circuit CoA website at:

    http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/fd.....it=showdkt

  • http://www.pasadena.edu Linda E. Walsh

    Sadly, this domestic terrorist is hiding behind the constitution that he seeks to destroy! Nothing new here jus t the same old tired right -wing extremist tactics, but I thought that athe jury was supposed to be the trie of fact, and the judge the trier of law. What happened here? Would a jury of lay people really be qualified to make decisions on application of the law? Should not the judges have made the decision? Just curious!

  • beholder

    Thanks for your views, Carter. That’s interesting stuff.

    By the way I am opined that if this sets a precedent, then we might see more indictments for hate speech related crimes. The rationale is simply that, while as you point out a defense may have a better shot with a jury because they can select jurors while they can’t select a judge, it also seems that a jury may interpret a threat through nuances whereas a judge is conditioned and trained to be “blind” to such things and stick to the verbatim of the hate speech and the strict interpretation of the law. Juries do not necessarily do so, even if that is their purpose.

    So, with KKK and rabid white supremacist type hate speech (which seems to be generally more unacceptable socially than legally), could a prosecutor not see more promise in getting a conviction with the guarantee it will go before a jury than trying to make the indictment stick on the sole opinion of the judge?

  • bryony1

    This is a whole new form of “jury tampering.”

    The Internet is used more and more to publish deeply personal information: Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home address and phone number were published on a bigot’s website and she received many threatening calls at home. The address of a member of Congress’ brother was published as being that of the member, and the brother’s home was dangerously vandalized. Other members of Congres had their offices in various parts of the country attacked when the addresses were published on a website.

    I think there needs to be a law prohibiting Internet website publication of personal information, especially including purported home addresses and phone number, about anyone by a third-party. The Internet is becoming a dangerous place, largely because any mentally deranged person can use it to encourage harassment or actual harm against another person.

  • Carter

    I believe [that it was] perceived as a mistrial setup, yes.
    It’s early, and I must be off to work but while the coffee does it’s work let me say that was a logical agenda I could see as a motivation. And it’s common enough so I feel pretty confident with that. These “superficially obvious” cases often have foolishness like jury intimidation or other things going on to attempt to move them to a mistrial.
    On the other level – the Jury must determine Hate Speech because it’s the old “pornography element”: I know it when I see it but it’s tough to define it in totality because there are interpretations that must be made in each case, etc.

    You’ll notice that in cases (let’s take pornography) where the case rested on a defining element, the Defense is always in a better position with a Jury than a judge.

    Aside from that if we define something like Hate Speech to a fine level then the law can become meaningless because it’s not so much the specific slur or remark but the context, motivation, & impact that is important to take into account……….Just my opinion.

    Again, this is what I see: I’m sure there is always more.

  • beholder

    Let me see if I understand this.

    The CoA disagreed with district Judge Adelman, who stepped in after all the Chicago judges stepped aside from this case. Adelman dismissed the indictment, stating in the opinion:

    “Knowledge or belief that one’s speech, even speech advocating law breaking, may cause others to act, does not remove the speech from the protection of the First Amendment unless the speech is directed to inciting imminent lawless action and is likely to produce such action.”

    But, the CoA sent it back to district court and ordered a jury to determine intent of the comments that the prosecutors obviously believed were threatening enough to bring forward an indictment.

    So I am wondering why did the CoA rule that a jury must decide White’s intent, given that Adelman had already dismissed the indictment. What’s the rationale?

    Did the CoA disagree with Adelman’s opinion that the knowledge or belief of what might occur from one’s speech is not sufficient to remove 1st Amd protections, if there is a not a direct incitement to violence, and that the indictment had merit?

    Or are they saying that only a jury can determine that, and not the judge, which seems to be more likely?

    Carter are you saying Adelman might have thrown out the indictment for fear that it would lead to a mistrial in the other cases where White was convicted?

    I couldn’t find the text of Adelman’s opinion — United States v. White, 638 F. Supp. 2d 935 (N.D. Ill. 2009) — only parts of it in news articles. Nor could I find the CoA ruling to see what the nitty gritty of it was.

    In very broad terms, if it means what I infer, then the CoA is saying the People (vis-a-vis a jury) should decide criminal intent in hate speech and not the Judiciary (vis-a-vis a judge). Since unlawful intent of hate speech can be difficult to prove (hate itself not being unlawful), it seems like a very relevant case.

  • Carter

    MISTRIALS are almost always the last gambit of the desperate, the non-confident, or the inexperienced. However, they DO happen and a strong attorney & experienced Judge is always wary of it’s potential in any trial.

  • Carter

    I wouldn’t want anyone to think of me as an “expert” but you bring up an interesting issue which I hope I can address to degree of clarification.
    The 7th Circuit CoA very likely used rulings from state cases such as Texas to find the Federal mandates. The Juror has rights but in his/ her professional capacity must maintain certain decorum.

    Texas Rule of Evidence 606(b) provides that

    Upon an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify as to any matter or statement occurring during the jury’s deliberations, or on any juror’s mind or emotions or mental processes, as influencing any juror’s assent to or dissent from the verdict or indictment. Nor may a juror’s affidavit or any statement by a juror concerning any matter about which the juror would be precluded from testifying be admitted in evidence for any of these purposes. However, a juror may testify: (1) whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror; or (2) to rebut a claim that the juror was not qualified to serve.
    ——
    Thus, the (supposedly attempted) intimidation of the Juror must maintain itself separate from the case unless the Judge believes this to be an impossibility.
    You can find Federal rulings clearly outlined below:

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/rul.....tm#Rule606

    http://howappealing.law.com/062810.html#038398

    ——
    [We wonder if the Federal Judge was influenced by retaliation.]
    Certainly the issue crossed his mind. As you pointed out, it happen quite often to both Judicial and LE officials.

    Only opinion here but the White case is a forgone conclusion. The idiot posting the addresses is working for a mistrial. That’s the logic behind it (if you can call it that).
    But the reality is that ruse is a well trodden road and I doubt that any mistrial will come of attempting intimidation via such buffoonery.
    Likely as not, anyone attempting to actively confront a Juror will find themselves up a seriously nasty creek.

  • beholder

    This is a welcome turn of events. I tend to harbor conflicts whenever the right of expression is concerned, but I also think it’s pretty clear that a case (with questionable mens rea) like this needs a jury to determine if Constitutional protections pertain to expressions of this nature.

    One also has to wonder if the federal judge in Chicago was influenced by his own fear of retaliation. I guess that’s something judges must contend with every day, but in a case like this that is in my mind a frontal assault on our very system of justice through intimidation tactics, it’s particularly relevant to think about.

    I would also be curious to find out what the court of appeals based its arguments on. Is there a link to the ruling or a summary somewhere on why a jury is called for? Any legal experts able to clarify?