Matt Hale Trial Postponed as New Charges are Added
A federal judge has postponed until April the murder solicitation trial of Matt Hale, the leader of the neo-Nazi group long known as the World Church of the Creator. The judge also approved several new charges against Hale.
Hale, 32, was to have been tried Nov. 3 for allegedly asking his chief of security, Tony Evola, to kill U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Lefkow was presiding over a civil copyright trial in which Hale's group lost the right to use its name because an unrelated church had copyrighted it years before.
Hale was furious at the judge, whom he called a "probable Jew," for ruling against him.
Evola turned out to be an FBI informant who was placed in the group shortly after an intimate of Hale's, Benjamin Smith, went on a rampage in July 1999, killing two minorities and wounding nine others before committing suicide. Authorities have long suspected that Hale had advance knowledge of Smith's plans.
Some have seen the solicitation charge against Hale as weak, because Hale is somewhat ambiguous in his tape-recorded conversations with Evola. But prosecutors seem to have considerably strengthened their case against Hale recently:
· In late October, officials added a second murder solicitation charge against Hale, saying he also had asked a key follower, Jon Fox, to kill Lefkow and the lawyers for the Oregon church that sued him, as well as to burn down that church "around its director."
Fox told prosecutors that he refused and also told Hale he could find no one else to do the job. Later, Fox wrote to his former comrades via the Internet, claiming that he had decided to testify because a close ally of Hale's had raped one of his young children.
· Prosecutors also charged Hale with attempting to obstruct justice by telling his father, retired police officer Russell Hale, to lie to a grand jury investigating his role in the Smith rampage.
The younger Hale allegedly asked his father to say that Hale had wept after he learned of Smith's murders. Also, officials say Fox will testify that Hale "had reasons" to know of Smith's plans.
· Finally, prosecutors revealed their own plans to call Hale's wife — a young woman Hale lived with for just a few weeks before his arrest — as a witness. Court documents said only that she is expected to describe Hale's "actions, behavior and other physical evidence."
That wasn't the only bad news for the group that is now called The Creativity Movement. Lefkow recently fined the group and its imprisoned leader $200,000 for failing to comply with her orders during the copyright trial.
Hale, who has been held since his arrest in January, was also refused bond. The judge's decision came after prosecutors reported that Russell Hale had asked his son how many marshals escort him to court and how many guns they had.