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FBI Informant’s Retrial for Neo-Nazi Threats Opens Today

Jury selection and opening statements are scheduled to begin today in the second federal trial of hate blogger and former FBI informant Hal Turner.

Turner’s first trial ended in a mistrial on Dec. 7, with jurors leaning 9-3 in favor of acquittal. He is charged with threatening to assault and murder three federal judges in Chicago. Turner stated in blog entries that they “deserve to be killed” and posted their exact work locations.

Meanwhile, documents filed in federal court last month provide more details about Turner’s past role as a paid FBI informant. His traveling companion during his FBI-financed trip to Brazil was longtime National Alliance member Tripp Henderson of New Jersey, who in a posting to a National Alliance E-group once urged lone wolves to start a race war by shooting undocumented immigrants. On Jan. 31, 2005, Turner and Henderson left for the 10-day excursion to Sao Paulo to woo potential supporters willing to donate between $500,000 and $1 million to the National Alliance. Turner was then able to provide information to the FBI on 12 white supremacists from multiple countries, according to the documents. During the six-week period following the trip, Turner — whose FBI code name was “Valhalla” — received a $3,000 advance payment, in addition to $2,000 he’d already been paid during that fiscal year.

Turner’s intelligence also led to the conviction of James Mazzone (also known as James McManus), who was sentenced to 10 years in state prison for narcotics sales, according to the documents. Mazzone, an Aryan Nations leader, was listed on the group’s website as the New Jersey contact for the neo-Nazi organization.

Turner’s history as an FBI informant figured prominently in his first trial, with the defense arguing that the FBI had not prosecuted Turner when he made similar statements against public officials while an informant. (The FBI severed its relationship with Turner in August 2007, nearly two years before he published the comments for which he was charged.) As it did during the first trial, the government asked that Turner’s defense not be allowed to refer to his work as an FBI informant, calling it “an irrelevant sideshow designed to distract and confuse the jury.” U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter, who also presided over Turner’s first trial, denied the request on Feb. 19, along with the defense’s motion to bar testimony from the alleged targets of Turner’s threats: Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer. Prosecutors opted not to put the judges on the stand during Turner’s first trial, but plan to do so this time. In interviews with the FBI filed in court, all three judges said they regarded Turner’s blog posts as threats, but did not change their routines or seek additional personal security because of them.

The government is expected to begin making its case tomorrow in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, which was also the location of Turner’s first trial. The three judges will be the government’s first witnesses, according to court documents.

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