CHICAGO (AP) An FBI informant testified Friday that just days after he first made contact with members of a white supremacist group, federal agents had him phone the organization’s leader to get conversations on tape that might later serve as evidence.
The statement came as defense attorneys cross-examined Anthony Evola during the fifth day of testimony in the trial of white supremacist Matthew Hale, who is charged with soliciting the murder of a federal judge.
“That’s what they wanted you to do — get Hale talking on tape, right?” chief defense counsel Thomas Anthony Durkin asked Evola.
“Yes,” replied Evola, who served as Hale’s bodyguard for two years while secretly taping his conversations and reporting to the FBI.
“And there’s not one tape where Hale says, ‘I want somebody killed,’ right?” Durkin asked.
“I don’t believe so,” Evola testified.
Hale, 32, is charged with three counts of obstruction of justice and two counts of soliciting the murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Prosecutors say he was furious because she ordered his group to stop using the name World Church of the Creator, which was trademarked by Oregon-based religious group TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation — Family of URI Inc., which has no ties to Hale and does not share his white supremacist views.
Prosecutors played a tape Thursday on which Evola spoke of Lefkow and asked Hale if they would “exterminate the rat.” Hale said he wouldn’t involve himself in illegality but left open the door open for others to do so. Prosecutors say Hale was more than hinting he wanted the judge killed.
As he questioned Evola, Durkin sought to bolster the defense theory that the government sent Evola into Hale’s white supremacist group to lure its self-styled pontifex maximus into actions that would warrant agents moving in an arresting him.
Evola testified that he initially made contact with a Hale acquaintance named John Yonkers, who boasted that his nickname was “Nazi Joe.”
Within three days of meeting Yonkers, he was phoning Hale from his car with a tape recorder running. FBI agents were in the car with him, he said. In that first call, in 1999, he said, he was only able to reach an answering machine at Hale’s “world headquarters” in East Peoria.
Durkin also questioned Evola about taped conversations heard by the jury in which Evola and Hale repeatedly discussed the possibility of killing two other members of the group, Ken Dippold and Dan Hassett.
Dippold was the group’s former security chief who was eventually supplanted by Evola. Hassett was a follower who had feuded with Hale.
Durkin reminded Evola how, when they spoke about Hassett, Evola had told Hale: “Whatever you want done, I’ll do it. I always have and I always will.”
On the tape, Hale brushes off talk of killing Hassett.
“I’m going to ignore him,” Hale says. But Evola renews the possibility of taking stronger action.
Durkin asked him why he would do that when Hale apparently had no interest.
“I wanted to make sure he didn’t have anybody else who was going to do it,” Evola said.
“Did you ever tell the FBI that you want to make sure?” Durkin asked.
“I don’t remember if that came up,” Evola said.
Hale’s trial is expected to last at least two weeks. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in federal prison.