DIFFERENT BREED OF TERRORIST
Hate Group Leader Convicted of Plotting Federal Judge's Murder
No matter how offensive
their message, hate groups have the right to free speech under the U.S.
Constitution. But as one white supremacist recently found out, the First
Amendment doesn't protect those who cross the line and threaten violence.
On April 26, a federal
jury in Chicago found Matthew Hale guilty of trying to have a judge killed
(technically, "solicitation of murder").
Who is Matthew
Hale? The self-styled "Pontifex Maximus," or supreme
leader, of a racist/neo-Nazi group formerly known as World Church of
the Creator (WCOTC).
Throughout the group's
30-year history, many of its members have been involved in acts of violence.
Hale himself -- while publicly claiming that his church didn't condone
violent or illegal activities -- regularly called on his followers to fight
a "racial holy war." As a result, the WCOTC has been under investigation
as a domestic terrorist group.
What was Hale's
motive for wanting the judge murdered? He was furious at her.
She was requiring him to change his group's name because it had already
been trademarked by an unrelated religious organization.
How was he caught? Hale
sent an e-mail to his security chief seeking the judge's home address.
He didn't know the security chief was actually helping the FBI, and when
he followed up the e-mail with a conversation, the security chief tape-recorded
him ordering the judge's murder.
Hale was also found
guilty of three counts of obstruction of justice, partly for coaching his
father to lie to a grand jury that was investigating a shooting rampage
by one of Hale's close associates, Benjamin Smith. In 1999, after Hale
was prevented from obtaining a law license because of his racist views,
Smith went on a three-day shooting spree targeting minorities in Illinois
and Indiana – ultimately killing two people and wounding nine others.
Hale was recorded laughing about Smith's rampage, imitating gunfire, and
noting how Smith's aim had improved as the days went on.
in this case, the judge was not harmed. And that's precisely the point. In
the words of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, "The message is,
we will not wait for the trigger to be pulled." When it comes to
terrorism – international or domestic – prevention continues
to be our overriding priority.
What will Hale's
fate be? When sentenced in August, Hale could face as many as
50 years in prison.