White supremacist Matt Hale, charged with asking a follower to kill a federal judge, is expected to defend himself at trial by arguing that the judge was at least the third person that a government undercover agent had tried to push Hale into signing off on killing.
Hale contends, through his attorneys Thomas A. Durkin and Patrick W. Blegen, that the government agent — planted in Hale’s racist group by the FBI shortly after a shooting spree by church member Benjamin Smith — was the sole instigator behind a plan to kill the judge. Smith killed two people and injured nine in his rampage. The feds are investigating whether Hale played any role in Smith’s shooting spree but have not charged him in that case.
Federal prosecutors say tape-recordings of Hale show he solicited the murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow, who had ruled against Hale’s group in a court case.
“The evidence at trial will demonstrate unequivocally that the idea of killing Judge Lefkow was, at least, the third separate occasion since the Smith shooting rampage in the summer of 1999, where the government, through the informant, attempted to get Hale to go along with its very own suggestion that other supposed enemies of the church be killed.”
One target suggested by the undercover agent, who acted as Hale’s bodyguard, was a former church member who helped federal prosecutors in their investigation of the Smith shooting spree. Another was a minister in the church.
The new details, released in a motion filed Friday, show the extent to which the FBI investigated Hale’s group.
The government has about 170 audiotapes involving the undercover agent recording other members of the church, according to the motion.