CHICAGO (AP) — Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday in the trial of white supremacist leader Matthew Hale after a former CNN field producer testified about an interview in which Hale talked about a follower’s deadly shooting spree.
Hale, 32, is charged with two counts of soliciting the murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, who had ruled against him in a trademark lawsuit, and three counts of obstruction of justice.
One of the obstruction of justice counts accuses Hale of urging his father to lie to a grand jury about that CNN interview by saying Hale had become so upset while talking about follower Benjamin Smith’s 1999 shooting rampage that he broke down in tears and cut off the interview.
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
“I had to cut it off because I started, you know, I started crying,” Hale is heard saying on a tape of a phone conversation with his father in 2003 while Hale was jailed awaiting trial. “I ran into the house, and you, you said, what’s wrong? What’s wrong? I said I just can’t, you know. Just be ready to mention that.”
The former CNN field producer, Tracey Scruggs, now a state employee, testified that the interview had been completed normally and Hale had not cried or been teary eyed.
The jury earlier heard secretly made tapes of Hale laughing about the 1999 shootings, in which Smith killed two members of minority groups and wounded several others in Illinois and Indiana before killing himself as police closed in.
After prosecutors rested their case, chief defense counsel Thomas Anthony Durkin asked the judge for an immediate acquittal.
“This is the weakest case I’ve ever seen the government present in a big case,” Durkin told U.S. District Judge James T. Moody. “This is absolutely awful evidence.”
Moody denied the request.
The defense was expected to begin calling witnesses later Tuesday, and closing arguments were expected Wednesday. Durkin said he would most likely call only one or two witnesses.
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 an FBI informant to kill the judge.
Defense attorneys say the FBI planted a mole to try to lure Hale into a murder plot and that the informant was the only one urging violence against Lefkow.
If convicted, Hale could face up to 30 years in federal prison.