Defense attorney Thomas Anthony Durkin told the jury secretly made tapes show FBI informant Tony Evola and not Hale brought up the possible killing of federal Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow.
“The only person you’ll hear talking about killing a federal judge is Tony Evola– he’s the government’s informant planted in the church,” Durkin said in his opening statement.
Hale, 32, an outspoken white supremacist, is charged in the five-count indictment with two counts of solicitation to commit murder and three counts of obstruction of justice. The trial before U.S. District Judge James T. Moody is expected to last at least two weeks.
Prosecutors say Hale became furious with Lefkow in November 2002 when she issued an order barring his group from using the name World Church of the Creator.
The name is trademarked by an Oregon-based religious organization, TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation– Family of URI, Inc., which has no ties to Hale and says it does not share his racial views.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Weisman said in his opening statement that Hale told a follower, Jon Fox, specifically that he wanted Lefkow dead. Fox is also expected to be a witness. The judge was never attacked.
Weisman said Hale repeatedly led both Evola and Fox to believe that he hoped they would kill Lefkow, even though as a trained law school graduate himself he was careful not to be caught on tape saying so specifically with the possibility the conversation might be taped.
But Durkin said that didn’t add up to solicitation to commit murder.
He said the case shows “how dangerous it is when the government, even with good motives, infiltrates and organization and goes after people for what it thinks they might have done.”
Weisman cautioned the jurors, who include five blacks and one Latino, they had to be ready to hear nasty racial slurs uttered by Hale, including references to non-whites as members of “mud races.”
Durkin tried to prepare the jury for what it was about to hear by saying he was surrounded by racial prejudice while growing up in an all-white community on Chicago’s South Side.
“But I have seen nothing, even where I come from, that is as ugly, hateful and vile as what you will hear in this courtroom,” he said. But he said Hale “is not be tried for his beliefs.”