Blogger accused of threatening 7th Circuit judges is free on bail

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NEWARK, N.J. — A New Jersey blogger accused of threatening lawmakers and judges in two states is free on $500,000 bond.

Hal Turner lit a cigar as he walked out of the federal courthouse in Newark on Oct. 21. The 47-year-old waved away a reporter and photographer because he’s under strict orders not to talk to the news media.

A federal judge also ordered Turner not to use a computer or any device that can access the Internet.

Turner was arrested at his North Bergen home in June after authorities said he posted threats against Connecticut legislators and wrote that three federal judges in Illinois deserved to die.

Turner’s release came after U.S. District Judge Donald Walter ruled last month that Turner could be freed under “strict conditions,” which included the news-media and Internet restrictions, The National Journal reported last month. Turner is also subject to home confinement and electronic monitoring.

Walter, a visiting judge from Louisiana who was assigned to the Illinois case, also agreed last month to move Turner’s case from Chicago to Brooklyn, N.Y. Holding Turner’s trial somewhere other than Chicago “would best serve not only justice but the appearance of justice,” Walter said.

Turner was charged in Illinois with making a death threat against three 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges after saying in Internet postings in June that the judges “deserve to be killed” because they had refused to overturn handgun bans in Chicago and suburban Oak Park. Turner also had said on his Web site that the judges’ blood would “water the tree of liberty.”

The postings included the photos and work addresses of the judges, along with a picture of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago and notations indicating the placement of “anti-truck bomb barriers.”

The postings also referred to the February 2005 slayings of the mother and husband of Chicago-based federal Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow.

In moving the trial to Brooklyn, Walter noted the “widespread media coverage” of those slayings.

Turner’s attorneys have said he merely gave his opinion, which was protected free speech.

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