Prosecutors don't want Hale trial moved

Government rebuts defense claim that downstate jurors less likely to be shocked

Copley News Service/June 18, 2003
By Mike Ramsey

Chicago -- Federal prosecutors this week offered their views on why Matt Hale's murder-solicitation trial should not be moved from Chicago to the white supremacist's home territory of central Illinois.

Defense attorneys for the East Peorian recently asked that the trial be moved downstate in part because of negative publicity in the Chicago area. Hale, 31, was arrested here Jan. 8 for allegedly encouraging the murder of a U.S. Northern District judge who had issued an order against him in a trademark dispute.

The government disagrees that media coverage has been pervasive and rebutted the defense's suggestion that central Illinoisans are more familiar with Hale and less likely to be shocked by bad press. Prosecutors doubt the long history of Hale coverage in the U.S. Central District would somehow "dull the senses of prospective jurors."

"Understandably, defendant cites no legal authority to support the notion that some media coverage can create so much prejudice that a change of venue is warranted, but an extreme amount of media coverage can somehow 'cure' any potential prejudice," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weisman wrote in a 19-page response filed Monday.

In addition, prosecutors contend that before his arrest in Chicago, "the defendant's own penchant for media coverage has been the driving factor in his repeated appearances in the media."

Defense attorneys also argue for a change in venue because Hale's alleged actions occurred in East Peoria, not Chicago.

The government counters that the FBI informant Hale solicited last year received some of his directions in e-mails received in the Northern District, where the informant resided. Also, prosecutors said, "the object of the solicitation," Judge Joan Lefkow, sits in Chicago.

Weisman advised the judge overseeing the criminal case to "wait and see if a fair and impartial jury can be impaneled" in Chicago. Hale's trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 22.

Meanwhile, the racist organization Hale ran from his father's East Peoria home remains under Lefkow's order not to use its former name, "World Church of the Creator," which is owned by an Oregon church.

Lefkow earlier this year said Hale's organization, now called the Creativity Movement, must pay the trademark owner $1,000 for each day it fails to comply.

The problem: Hale's Charleston attorney, Todd Reardon, recently said he was having trouble finding a leader in Hale's organization to ensure compliance. One of Hale's chief assistants disavowed any connection to the church, according to court documents.

A status hearing in the civil case is set for July 2.

The federal government began tracking Hale's organization from within after a July 1999 shooting spree by former member Benjamin Smith left two minorities dead and several wounded. Hale denied any connection.

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