U.S. District Judge James Moody delayed the sentencing indefinitely, a court official said Wednesday. The continuance comes as the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington is deciding a consolidated case that could affect how federal judges determine penalties.
The central question in “U.S. v. Booker” and “U.S. v. Fanfan” is whether the judges can increase sentences by considering aggravating factors that weren’t presented to jurors. The cases follow a Supreme Court decision earlier this year, “Blakely v. Washington,” which barred state judges from weighing such information because it violates the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Some lawyers have called this the biggest Supreme Court case since Miranda. That may well be true,” said Chicago defense attorney Robert Loeb, citing the landmark 1966 decision that obligated police to tell arrestees of their rights. Loeb said he is sitting on three to four federal sentencings while awaiting the high court’s ruling.
Federal prosecutors earlier indicated they would seek sentencing enhancements for Hale, 33, an East Peorian who faces several years behind bars. A jury in April convicted him of encouraging a bodyguard – actually an FBI mole – in late 2002 to kill U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow, who oversaw a trademark-infringement lawsuit in Chicago that Hale lost on appeal. Hale also was convicted of three counts of obstructing justice.
He has been in federal custody since January 2003 and is now serving as his own attorney. Hale is the former “pontifex maximus,” or leader, of the defunct World Church of the Creator, an organization that considered non-whites and Jews inferior.
Hale follower Benjamin Smith went on a July 1999 shooting rampage that left two minorities dead and several wounded. Smith killed himself as police closed in.
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