Around Muscogee County, Ga., H. Haywood Turner III is known as the county magistrate who, during a driving altercation, brandished a pistol at a U.S. Army sergeant. Both that crime — he pleaded guilty to reckless driving in 2007 — and Turner's attempts to keep it under wraps made a splash in the local news.
Now Judge Turner stands accused of having an even bigger secret. In a February 2006 filing in a contentious divorce proceeding, lawyers for Alis Elizabeth Van-Dorn Turner contended that Turner had been a "lifetime" member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance for more than 30 years. "During the marriage," the filing claimed, "the husband constantly forced the wife to listen to the propaganda of hatred advanced by the National Alliance. … [Turner] would frequently attempt to force her to read those articles published by the National Alliance."
Turner's wife could not be reached to elaborate, and the judge did not reply to letters and E-mails from the Intelligence Report requesting comment. Alis Turner also claimed that her husband had a collection of Nazi war relics including "the bowl used by Adolph Hitler to eat from." She accused him of beating her, locking her in their home, and cutting off their electricity for months.
Turner has expressed some surprising attitudes, if his wife's claims are true. A registered Democrat, the judge once spoke sympathetically about peace activists arrested at Fort Benning, Ga., and said he had personally witnessed human rights violations in Latin America. In a jacket blurb for India Unveiled, a photojournalism book about the subcontinent, Turner was effusive. "The entire work," he wrote, "has the clear aura of genius and the karma of a soul so profound and yet so gentle."
But Judge Turner is also well known for his crude and controversial statements. In October 2001, he told a defendant in open court that bombing a city facility in Columbus, Ga., might be the only way to get attention from a City Council that Turner claimed was stingy with pay raises. "I said, to get their attention, you'd have to do something, I think I mentioned a bomb on the government center," he told WTVM-TV in Columbus. "That's rather bad in light of Sept. 11."