Jury selection begins in trial of white supremacist Matt Hale

CHICAGO – More than 100 potential jurors crowded into a federal courtroom Wednesday as jury selection got under way in the trial of white supremacist leader Matthew Hale, charged with soliciting the murder of a federal judge.

The first question jurors were asked was whether any had heard of Benjamin Smith and his 1999 shooting rampage in Illinois and Indiana that killed Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong. Smith, who killed another person and himself, was a disciple of Hale’s World Church of the Creator, which moved its headquarters to Riverton, Wyo., in December but was met with opposition from residents.

After a forest of hands shot up in response, U.S. District Judge James T. Moody started questioning the jurors one-by-one in private.

Hale, 32, is charged with two counts of soliciting murder in a case unrelated to the Smith shootings and three counts of obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors argue Hale wanted U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow of Chicago killed in the name of a “racial holy war,” and they say that comes through on tapes recorded by an FBI informant.

Defense attorneys say only the FBI informant was urging violence on the tapes.

The tapes were made a few weeks after Lefkow ordered Hale to stop using the name World Church of the Creator because the name was already trademarked by another group. The religious group that holds the trademark, Oregon-based TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation – Family of URI, Inc., has no ties to Hale and has said repeatedly it does not share his white supremacist views.

Prosecutors say that Hale, in an emailed to the FBI informant 10 days after Lefkow’s order, quoted “The White Man’s Bible,” written by his group’s founder, as saying that if the government interfered with them, “they then are obviously the criminals and we can treat them like the criminal dogs they are and take the law into our own hands.”

He later asked the FBI informant for the addresses of Lefkow and three attorneys involved in the case, and then met with the informant, who secretly taped the conversation, prosecutors say.

On the tapes, the informant asks: “Are we gonna exterminate the rat?”

“Well, whatever you want to do, basically,” Hale says.

Defense attorneys say Hale never said anything on the tapes that showed violent intentions toward Lefkow, and they say the FBI planted a mole to goad Hale into some criminal violation.

Moody was brought from the U.S. District Court in Hammond, Ind., to preside over the trial because the Chicago-based federal judges work regularly with Lefkow.

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Associated Press, USA
Apr. 7, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday April 7, 2004.
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