Race extremist jailed in plot to kill judge

Matt Hale talks to the press Wednesday at a Chicago courthouse.

CNN/January 9, 2003

Chicago, Illinois -- An Illinois white supremacist leader was arrested Wednesday and charged with seeking to arrange the killing of the federal judge presiding over a trademark lawsuit involving his organization.

Matt Hale is the self-described "Pontifex Maximus" of the World Church of the Creator, which says it stands for "the survival, expansion and advancement of our white race exclusively." He was in federal custody Wednesday, said Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago.

Hale, 31, of East Peoria, Illinois, was indicted Tuesday on charges of solicitation of murder and obstruction of justice. Hale was taken into custody without incident Wednesday when he arrived for a contempt hearing in a lawsuit by an Oregon group that says it has trademarked the name of Hale's church. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The indictment accuses him of seeking to have the presiding judge in that case, U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, killed and of attempting to influence her decisions "corruptly and by force."

If convicted of solicitation of murder, Hale faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The obstruction charge carries a top sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.

In November, Lefkow ordered Hale's World Church of the Creator to stop using the name and to remove it from or destroy all material that includes it. In statements on the organization's Web site, the group says neither Hale nor any member was obliged to destroy any of its "religious texts."

The site describes Lefkow as "a white woman married to a Jew with three mixed-race grandchildren," along with other racial epithets.

In 1999, a former member of the group, Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, was suspected in a string of racially motivated shootings around the Midwest that killed two people and wounded numerous others. Smith killed himself after a high-speed chase by police.

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