Neo-Nazi Leader Matt Hale Stands Trial for Murder Plot
'Dumber Than a Bag of Hammers'
All told, Matt Hale talked with Tony Evola about bumping off five of his enemies: three WCOTC members, JDL Executive Director Ian Sigel and Judge Joan Lefkow.
For many courtroom observers, the most surprising thing about these taped conversations was that Hale, with his law-school training and his conspiratorial mind, never seemed to suspect the truth: that Evola was an FBI plant who'd been taping him from the git-go.
"After the 10th time he's brought up killing somebody, how could you not be suspicious?" asked Richard Warman, a Canadian human-rights attorney who came to Chicago for the trial. "Hale must have read entrapment cases in first-year law. How could it not occur to him, 'Gee, it's almost like this guy's trying to get me to order a killing'? The first few times, sure, maybe you just think the guy's being overzealous. There are plenty of overzealous neo-Nazis out there. But the ninth, 10th time?
"Even if you're dumber than a bag of hammers, you're not going to keep failing to suspect anything."
The boy genius of neo-Nazism never suspected a thing. Not even when Evola showed up unannounced at World Headquarters, the day after Hale sent out an E-mail message to selected WCOTC members, providing them with Judge Joan Lefkow's home address.
After greeting the Pontifex Maximus with a hearty "RaHoWa!" Evola asked Hale why he'd given out the address. "[F]or educational purposes," Hale said, "and for whatever reason you wish it to be."
Evola: "[W]e gonna exterminate the rat?"
Hale: "Well, whatever you wanna do."
As usual, Hale then quickly qualified his remarks. "Ah, my position's always been that I, you know, I'm gonna fight within the law and, but, ah, that information's been pro-, provided. If you wish to, ah, do anything yourself, you can, you know?"
Hale: "So that makes it clear."
Evola: "Consider it done."
Four days later, the FBI directed its informant to send Hale an E-mail message. "I called the exterminator," Evola wrote. "He is working to get rid of the femala [sic] rat right now." Records show that Hale got the message. In the past, he had always backed off when Evola told him a murder was actually going to go down. This time, he sent no reply at all.
A Dangerous Gamble
The prosecution rested on April 20, Hitler's birthday. Matt Hale's defense team called no witnesses, gambling that the jury would not convict him on the most serious charges he faced — soliciting Judge Lefkow's murder. But just to make sure, attorney Thomas Durkin gave a fiery closing argument that kept the courtroom riveted for more than two hours.
This case was not really about Hale, Durkin insisted — and it certainly was not about his "ugly, hateful, vile" ideas. Instead, Durkin argued, the case was a chilling example of "how dangerous it is when the government ... infiltrates and attempts to capture people for what they think might have been done."
FBI agents had been out to get Hale ever since the Ben Smith shootings, he said — and when they couldn't find a way to blame Hale for Smith's rampage, they used Tony Evola to frame him in a clear-cut case of government entrapment.
"This is not Hale trying to solicit Evola," Durkin bellowed, pacing up and down in front of the jury box. "This is Evola trying to induce Hale! If there was any soliciting, it was [done by] the government."
It took the jury two days to decide differently.
Still stubbornly wearing the orange jumpsuit, Hale squinted at the jury foreman — the college dean with an African-American partner — as he pronounced Hale not guilty of soliciting Jon Fox, but guilty of soliciting Evola.
He was found guilty on all three of the lesser obstruction charges: attempting to intimidate Judge Lefkow, sending a letter to Lefkow with false information about the WCOTC's materials, and asking his father — in a taped phone conversation from jail — to lie in grand jury testimony about his son's reaction to the Ben Smith shootings.
Hale's face showed no expression at all. But he knew the math, no doubt: he would now be facing up to 50 years in prison. (He is to be sentenced on Aug. 23.)
Hale tipped his head in the direction of his parents as he was led away, headed back to the solitary cell where he had spent the previous 15 months, helping his attorneys prepare for "Nuremberg II."
Back in the halcyon days of Matt Hale's empire, when his shrine to himself was adding items even faster than the World Church of the Creator was adding members, he called his followers together for a one-year memorial service honoring Ben Smith.
"Nothing builds a movement like persecution," Hale said with typical bravado. "Let them arrest me, and someone will take charge tomorrow."
It didn't turn out that way. Renamed the Creativity Movement, Hale's former "church" has practically dwindled to dust. A few days after his convictions, his remaining loyalists scheduled an "emergency meeting" to select a new "interim" leader.
But there aren't many Creators left to lead. Some have peeled off into other neo-Nazi groups like White Revolution. Others, stung by their experience with the WCOTC, have sworn off neo-Nazi groups altogether.
One Montana Creator went out with a bang last year, taking 4,100 of the "holy books" from the storage shed where they had been shipped for safekeeping. Identified in newspapers only as "Carl," he hauled off every last holy book and peddled them to the Montana Human Rights Network — for a token $300.
"One day I just asked, 'What am I doing?' " Carl told the Billings Gazette. "There was no integrity. There was no sense to it."
For the rest of the neo-Nazi universe, the message of Hale's conviction is crystal clear.
"This whole thing, from beginning to end, is nothing but a Jewish conspiracy," former WCOTC stalwart Billy Brown recently railed at a White Revolution rally in South Carolina. "If we'd have had a legitimate judicial system, he'd have never been charged."
Those sentiments were echoed in countless online postings. "We hate the jews [sic] ten times more today than yesterday," wrote one poster on the neo-Nazi Vanguard News Network.
It was only a matter of days before a Creator calling himself "Exterminance" took a trick out of Matt Hale's old playbook. He posted an address, cell and telephone number for an Anthony Evola outside Chicago, "In Case Anyone Wants To Say Hi." Within hours, threatening messages had started to pop up on Anthony Evola's answering machine.
Just one problem: It was the wrong Anthony Evola.