The sentence wasn’t as harsh as he feared, but neo-Nazi blogger and shock-jock radio host Hal Turner will spend 25 months in prison worrying about white racists he believes will be eager to snuff him for having been an FBI informant.
Turner, 48, whose vicious rhetoric was much admired among white supremacists until his FBI connections were revealed three years ago, was convicted Aug. 13 of using his blog to threaten three federal judges. U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter sentenced Turner to 33 months in prison Tuesday despite the defendant’s impassioned protestations of his innocence. Turner faced a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The eight months Turner has already spent in custody will count toward his sentence.
The FBI used Turner to gain information about white supremacists from 2003 through 2007, when the agency decided it was too difficult to manage his volatile rhetoric and ended the relationship. According to the northern New Jersey newspaper The Record, Turner sent an E-mail from prison days before he was sentenced, saying that he expected the “Max Sentence.”
“Frankly,” he wrote, “any sentence they give me other than probation is gonna be a Death Sentence.” He said members of Aryan Brotherhood and Aryan Nations, as well as neo-Nazis and skinheads would target him “because of the work I did against their interests. And if it isn’t one of those groups that kill me, it will be one of the Minority groups who get told I’m some evil racist whatever,” according to The Record.
Turner has maintained that the FBI had issued him a virtual carte blanche to broadcast the things he did – something the agency denies. He called the charges against him “a lie” and accused virtually every person and institution involved in his conviction of corruption and “treachery.” He said his trial could be remembered as “the first Bolshevik show trial” in the United States, according to The Record.
Turner built his reputation as perhaps the most scalding of ultra-right-wing racists in media after starting up his radio show nearly a decade ago. He ranted about such things as a “Portable Nigger Lyncher” machine and slimed those he hated as “savage Negro beasts,” “bull-dyke lesbians,” “faggots” and worse. Turner also relished issuing explicit calls for death for specific reviled targets, even setting up a website called www.killtheenemy.com. At one point, he boasted that he could inspire “a whole slew of potential Timothy McVeighs. I don’t make bombs,” he added, “I make bombers.”
In June 2006, Turner, outraged by a ruling of a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a ban on handguns in Chicago and Oak Park, Ill., wrote in his blog, “Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges must die. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty.” The next day, Turner updated the post to include the names, work addresses, phone numbers and photographs of the three judges, along with a map of their courthouse.
At trial, Turner argued that his rhetoric was merely political hyperbole of the sort that he claimed his FBI handlers had encouraged to entice potentially violent racists to respond to him and, in the process, identify themselves to the Bureau. In two earlier trials, in December 2009 and March 2010, jurors deadlocked, apparently confounded by testimony that left it unclear if Turner was acting at the behest of authorities and whether or how real his threats were.