CHICAGO – Defense attorneys for white supremacist leader Matthew Hale rested their case Tuesday without calling a single witness, saying the prosecution had just presented the weakest case they had ever seen in a major trial.
Hale, charged with two counts of soliciting the murder of a federal judge and three counts of obstruction of justice, never testified.
The 32-year-old watched the seven days of jury selection and testimony from the defense table, where he wore his orange prison jumpsuit despite suggestions from the presiding judge that he change into street clothes to avoid prejudicing the jury.
After the defense rested, U.S. District Judge James T. Moody sent the jury home and ordered closing statements to begin Wednesday morning.
Chief defense counsel Thomas Anthony Durkin declined to discuss his strategy after court, saying only that he stood by his comments made that morning when he asked the judge for an immediate acquittal.
“This is the weakest case I’ve ever seen the government present in a big case,” Durkin had told the judge. “This is absolutely awful evidence.”
Moody denied the request.
The jury, which includes five African-Americans and one Latino, has heard hours of secretly made tapes of Hale using racial slurs, laughing about a young follower’s deadly shooting spree, and talking to an FBI informant about what prosecutors argue was a plan to kill U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow.
Lefkow, who was never attacked, had ordered Hale’s white supremacist organization in 2002 to stop using the name World Church of the Creator because the words were trademarked by an Oregon-based religious group, TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation – Family of URI Inc., which has no ties to Hale and disavows his views.
Prosecutors say Hale was furious and solicited the FBI informant to find someone to kill the judge. Hale later move his organization’s headquarters to Riverton, Wyo., where it has been shunned by the community.
Defense attorneys argued in their opening statements that the FBI planted a mole to try to lure Hale into a murder plot so they could arrest him and that the informant was the only one on the tapes ever urging violence against Lefkow.
If convicted, Hale could face up to 30 years in federal prison.