Matthew Hale Convicted of Plotting Judge's Murder
A Different Breed of Terrorist
Hate Group Leader Convicted of Plotting Federal Judge's Murder
No matter how offensive their message, hate groups have the right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution. But as one white supremacist recently found out, the First Amendment doesn't protect those who cross the line and threaten violence.
On April 26, a federal jury in Chicago found Matthew Hale guilty of trying to have a judge killed (technically, "solicitation of murder").
Who is Matthew Hale? The self-styled "Pontifex Maximus," or supreme leader, of a racist/neo-Nazi group formerly known as World Church of the Creator (WCOTC).
Throughout the group's 30-year history, many of its members have been involved in acts of violence. Hale himself--while publicly claiming that his church didn't condone violent or illegal activities--regularly called on his followers to fight a "racial holy war." As a result, the WCOTC has been under investigation as a domestic terrorist group.
What was Hale's motive for wanting the judge murdered? He was furious at her. She was requiring him to change his group's name because it had already been trademarked by an unrelated religious organization.
How was he caught? Hale sent an e-mail to his security chief seeking the judge's home address. He didn't know the security chief was actually helping the FBI, and when he followed up the e-mail with a conversation, the security chief tape-recorded him ordering the judge's murder.
Hale was also found guilty of three counts of obstruction of justice, partly for coaching his father to lie to a grand jury that was investigating a shooting rampage by one of Hale's close associates, Benjamin Smith. In 1999, after Hale was prevented from obtaining a law license because of his racist views, Smith went on a three-day shooting spree targeting minorities in Illinois and Indiana--ultimately killing two people and wounding nine others. Hale was recorded laughing about Smith's rampage, imitating gunfire, and noting how Smith's aim had improved as the days went on.
Thankfully, in this case, the judge was not harmed. And that's precisely the point. In the words of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, "The message is, we will not wait for the trigger to be pulled." When it comes to terrorism–international or domestic–prevention continues to be our overriding priority.
What will Hale's fate be? When sentenced in August, Hale could face as many as 50 years in prison.