Harold C. "Hal" Turner is a white supremacist true believer who has used radio and Internet broadcasts to disseminate his hate since the 1990s. At the same time, he worked as an informant for the FBI between 2003 and 2007, providing information on white supremacist groups for the same government he frequently railed against. On his radio show, Turner has ranted about "bull-dyke lesbians," "savage Negro beasts," "faggots," and even joked about a "portable nigger lyncher" machine. He has a nasty history of threatening political enemies, saying that they deserve to be killed and posting their addresses online. That practice caught up to him in August 2010, when he was convicted of threatening to assault and murder three federal judges. Jurors' confusion about his FBI role seems to have been behind two earlier mistrials.
In His Own Words
"We Christians would do well to adopt the Muslim strategy. When someone sues to remove the Ten Commandments from a public area, attack, beat and maybe even KILL them. When a federal appeals court rules that Christian Nativity Scenes in New York Schools can be banned while Jew Menorrah's [sic] a[nd] Muslim Crescents can remain in the same schools, the Judges on that court should be attacked, beaten and if necessary, KILLED."
— Website post attacking "JEW NEWSPAPERS," Feb. 6, 2006
"I ask the People of the State of Nevada to travel to Senator [Harry] Reid's home and make clear to him the price of betraying our sovereign Will. I ask the People of Nevada to send Senator Reid the kind of message he cannot mistake. … Don't think I'm talking out of my ass either. The last time I focused on a federal official like this, it was US District Judge Joan Humphrey-Lefkow of Chicago. I commented on my show that one of her rulings made her worthy of being killed. Some time later, someone broke into her home and slaughtered her mother and husband."
— Website post attacking the Senate majority leader for his positions on immigration, Oct. 30, 2007
"In their obsessive effort to prove a ‘holocaust' (which did not occur) the Jews may have finally stepped on their own dicks. When prosecutors are unable to provide forensic evidence proving these alleged victims were even murdered and Demjanjuk walks away a free man, it will be one more nail in the coffin of the alleged Holocaust."
— Website post commenting on charges brought in Germany against John Demjanjuk, March 21, 2009
Turner was arrested for drug possession in 1988. At the time, he reportedly was addicted to cocaine.
On June 3, 2009, Turner was arrested and charged with inciting injury to persons or property. In a blog post, he had asked Connecticut Catholics to "take up arms" against two lawmakers and an employee of the Office of State Ethics. Turner also threatened to release the home addresses of these three men. A jury acquitted Turner of the charges in September 2011.
On June 24, 2009, Turner was charged with threatening to assault and murder three federal judges. He had listed their work addresses and photos on his blog, writing, "These Judges deserve to be killed." His first two trials ended in mistrials, but he was found guilty on Aug. 13, 2010. Turner was sentenced in December 2010 to 25 months in prison.
Hal Turner was born March 15, 1962, in Jersey City. He joined the Marines and was honorably discharged after 10 months. He later worked as a sales manager for a moving company and sold commercial property. Turner served on the Hudson County Republican Committee from 1991 to 1993. He was also the North Jersey campaign coordinator for white nationalist and television commentator Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1992.
Turner came to public attention as a frequent caller to the radio program of racist talk show host Bob Grant. He identified himself as "Hal from North Bergen," and gave longwinded and sometimes racist diatribes. In 1994, Grant got into trouble for racist comments he had made on his show, including referring to Haitian refugees as "subhuman infiltrators." But when the NAACP and other civil rights groups called for his removal, Turner jumped to his defense, organizing a pro-Grant rally in Trenton, N.J. It was attended by members of the Nationalist Movement, a white supremacist group, among others.
In 1997, Turner managed the New Jersey gubernatorial campaign of Libertarian Party candidate Murray Sabrin. Three years later, in 2000, Turner made his own run in the Republican primary for the U.S. House of Representatives in New Jersey's 13th district. He finished last among the three candidates.
Around this time, Turner became a founding talk show host of the right-wing radio program "The Right Perspective." He left a short time later due to what he described as "artistic differences." But by 2002, he had bought a time slot for a solo show on shortwave radio station WBCQ. He hosted that until March 22, 2004, when he decided to cancel it, citing Jewish ownership of the station. By way of explanation, he wrote on his website: "AFTER SEEING ‘THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST' THERE IS NO WAY I CAN CONTINUE TO DO BUSINESS WITH A JEW." He still continued to host an online talk show from a studio in his house.
In July 2002, Turner spoke at the Aryan Nations World Congress, national white supremacist gathering held that year in Ulysses, Penn. (The Aryan Nations is a neo-Nazi hate group that practices the Christian Identity theology. Adherents of the variety of Christian Identity practiced at Aryan Nations believe that Jews are literally descended from Satan, that whites are the real "chosen people" of the Bible, and that people of color do not have souls. ) At the conference, Turner called for unity among white supremacists.
Turner began working as an FBI informant in June 2003 for reasons that remain unclear to this day. Seen as a hero to some in the white supremacist world, Turner had a rapport with right-wing extremists that was seen as valuable to the intelligence agency (though when his FBI employment became public, many experts in police procedure harshly criticized the agency's use of a man who seemed to promote more violence and criminality than he prevented). He reportedly informed the FBI about a potential Aryan Nations chapter in New Jersey in 2004, and also provided information on the neo-Nazi National Alliance and other white supremacist groups.
The FBI sent Turner to Brazil in 2005, apparently because a rich white supremacist who lived in that country was considering making a million-dollar donation to American white supremacist groups. Turner traveled with National Alliance members to meet with him. While there, he reportedly learned of a plan by the British Arab Society to send up to $10 million in supplies to anti-American forces in Iraq. Turner was well paid for his work. A July 2005 FBI memo showed that in the previous fiscal year, Turner had been paid $10,365 for his work. Turner would later claim in court testimony that he was paid more than $100,000 during his tenure as an FBI informant.
In October 2005, a black student at Kingston High School in New York assaulted a white student from the same school. Turner was convinced that the incident was racially motivated. He organized a demonstration for Nov. 19, 2005 in Kingston that he called the "Rally Against Violence," and invited a Ku Klux Klan group and other white supremacists. Fifty protesters and 100 counter-protesters showed up, but both groups were outnumbered by approximately 200 police officers. At the rally, Turner called for the black student to be charged with a hate crime. He threatened to return multiple times and bring the city "to its economic knees" if his demands were not met. The rally cost the city approximately $80,000 in police overtime and related security costs.
On Dec. 10, 2005, Turner marched in a rally planned by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. The group's members were dressed in Nazi uniforms including brown stormtrooper outfits, black boots, and Nazi regalia. Speaking at the rally, Turner threatened a lynching campaign targeting blacks and Hispanics. "White people have a very nasty version of street justice," he said. "If these crime problems are not settled by the black and Hispanic communities, rest assured we will get our ropes and we will solve them for you."
On June 4, 2007, Turner claimed on his website that the Holocaust had never happened. He wrote, "Millions of dollars have been paid out to ‘holocaust survivors' and their descendants for something that DID NOT HAPPEN." In the post, Turner called for the criminal prosecution of Jewish Holocaust survivors who had sued for reparations.
Turner organized the "Rally Against Black Gang Terrorism" in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Aug. 4, 2007, attended by a number of prominent white supremacist speakers. Christian Identity leader James Wickstrom used the opportunity to try to unite blacks and whites against their supposed common enemy: the Jews. For his part, Turner closed the rally on a threatening note, saying: "It is very rare in America today that a white man will stand in public and talk about lynching blacks, but I did that here today and if you think I'm kidding … I want you to bear in mind that the reason the city put up these fences and called in all these cops was not to protect us from you [black counter-demonstrators]. It was to protect you from us."
The FBI asked Turner to cancel the rally before it occurred, but Turner refused. As a result, the Detroit office of the FBI stopped using Turner as a confidential informant, citing his "uncooperative and renegade behavior." However, Turner continued to supply tips and contact his FBI handlers in New Jersey. (In fact, he E-mailed them three weeks before his June 24, 2009 arrest.)
On Jan. 1, 2008, unidentified hackers broke Turner's E-mail account and found correspondence between Turner and his FBI and New Jersey State Police handlers. They confronted Turner in a comments page of his website, and briefly posted segments of the E-mails before Turner was able to delete them. In one, Turner wrote his FBI informant, "Once again, my fierce rhetoric has served to flush out a possible crazy." He then offered information on a commenter who had threatened to kill a U.S. senator. (A lawyer representing Turner later confirmed the veracity of the E-mail exchange.) At this point, the Southern Poverty Law Center — which had managed to spot the comments in the short time they were up and was concerned that the authorities were running an informant who was creating more danger than he was deterring — publicly criticized the apparent relationship. A few months later, the SPLC wrote that it had confirmed Turner's role as an FBI informant.
In February 2008, Turner realized that then-presidential candidate Barack Obama had a good chance of becoming the next president. His response was to call for Obama's assassination. "I'm starting to come to the realization that it may be up to a sole person, acting alone, to make certain this guy is never allowed to hold the most powerful office in the world," he wrote. Turner later took down his remark.
Turner was arrested in New Jersey on June 3, 2009, and charged with inciting injury to persons or property, because of a June 2 blog post he had written. Turner was upset with a bill introduced into a Connecticut Senate committee that specifically targeted the hierarchy of Catholic parishes. The bill would have taken power away from priests and given it to a council of lay people. Turner wrote: "Thankfully, the Founding Fathers gave us the tools necessary to resolve tyranny: The Second Amendment. TRN [Turner Radio Network] advocates Catholics in Connecticut take up arms and put down this tyranny by force. To that end, THIS WEDNESDAY NIGHT ON ‘THE HAL TURNER SHOW' we will be releasing the home addresses of the Senator and Assemblyman who introduced Bill 1098 as well as the home address of Thomas K. Jones from the OSE [Office of State Ethics]." He was released on bail on June 8.
However, Turner did not remain free for long. He was arrested three weeks later, on June 24, 2009, and charged with threatening to assault and murder three federal judges. It was again a blog post got him into trouble. Turner had been seething over a decision in a Chicago appeals court that upheld a local handgun ban. "Let me be the first to say this plainly: These Judges deserve to be killed," he wrote on June 2. "Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions." The next day, Turner updated the post to include the names, work addresses, phone numbers, and photographs of the three judges who decided the case. He also added a photograph of their courthouse that was modified to show the locations of "anti-truck bomb barriers." Turner was released on a $500,000 bond on Oct. 21, 2009.
This was not a new tactic for Turner: he had called for both specific judges and judges in general to be assaulted and murdered many times in the past. He had also listed the contact information of people who he wanted to harass, including Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Turner's trial began on Dec. 1, 2009. On Dec. 2, Special Agent Amy Pickett, who supervised the FBI agent who handled Turner, testified for the prosecution. She said that the FBI never encouraged Turner to engage in violent rhetoric against public officials and that Turner was advised that he would receive no immunity from prosecution. On Dec. 7, 2009, the first trial ended in a mistrial, with a hung jury voting 9-3 for acquittal. A second trial began on March 1, 2010, but ended in a mistrial on March 10. In the second trial, some of the judges who were targeted in Turner's blog post testified that they felt threatened by Turner's blog posts.
The third trial began on Aug. 10, 2010. In her opening remarks, prosecutor Diane McArthur noted that Turner's threatening statements were made two years after he was closed out as an FBI informant. Turner claimed that FBI agents coached him on the limits of free speech and encouraged him to "ratchet up the rhetoric" in order to bring out suspects in a 2005 investigation. But witnesses for the prosecution contradicted Turner's testimony. On Aug. 12, New Jersey State Police Detective Sgt. Leonard Nerbetski stated that officials had never encouraged Turner him to "ratchet up the rhetoric." Turner's principal handler, FBI agent Stephen Haug, corroborated Nerbetski's statements on Aug. 13 (Haug had not testified in the earlier trials). That same day, the jury found Turner guilty after deliberating for less than two hours.
In December 2010, Turner was sentenced to 25 months in federal prison. As of mid-2011, Turner still faced additional charges in Connecticut, where he is accused of threatening three state officials in 2009.
A Connecticut jury acquitted Turner of these charges in September 2011. Jurors said that although the white supremacist’s comments about the state officials were “outrageous,” and “distasteful,” the prosecution failed to convince them beyond reasonable doubt that criminal conduct had occurred.Turner was scheduled to be released in October 2012 but will be barred from participating in Internet or satellite radio programming for an additional three years.