Prosecutors link Hale to 1999 killings

Feds want to include proof in trial; meanwhile, defense says FBI agent incited discussion of killing judge

Peoria Journal Star/October 4, 2003
By Andy Kravetz and Mike Ramsey

Chicago -- After four years of trying, federal authorities have officially linked white supremacist Matt Hale to the murderous July 1999 shooting spree of follower Benjamin Smith.

In their strongest words to date, U.S. attorneys in Chicago this week said the 32-year-old Hale "had an extremely close relationship with Smith, that he likely knew of Smith's plans in advance, and he did nothing to prevent Smith from carrying through with those plans."

Hale of East Peoria is jailed without bond as he awaits trial on charges that he tried to solicit the murder of a federal judge in Chicago last year. In a 42-page motion filed late Tuesday, prosecutors ask for permission to introduce evidence relating to Smith's crimes to bolster allegations that Hale condoned violence against others.

Smith, 21, embarked on his two-state shooting rampage on the Fourth of July weekend four years ago, after Hale was denied a law license in Illinois. He killed two minorities and wounded several others before taking his own life as authorities closed in.

Prosecutors say Hale was seen with Smith at a storage locker of Hale's just days before the shootings. Many of Smith's items later were found at that locker. Prosecutors also claim the two had "significant phone contact" with one another in the days leading up to the shootings. The motion, too, states that Hale gave Smith a blank business check, suggesting he had "great trust" in the younger man.

In addition, prosecutors question a letter Smith wrote to Hale in which he supposedly cut himself off from Hale's World Church of the Creator. "The extraordinary nature of Smith's resignation suggests that it was purposefully orchestrated," the motion states.

Hale allegedly instructed his father and several followers on how to testify before a grand jury investigating the Smith case. Prosecutors say Hale, who also faces obstruction of justice charges, was trying to distance himself from Smith's actions.

The government's filing came as Hale's defense attorneys offered new information this week about Tony Evola, the paid FBI informant who infiltrated the former World Church of the Creator soon after Smith's crimes.

In a motion to dismiss the murder-solicitation charge, the attorneys said Evola was an "agent provacateur" who continually sought to incite Hale and other organization members to commit crimes. Evola's excessive methods went beyond simply monitoring the racist organization, according to the defense filing.

"At no time does Hale ever broach the subject of killing or even harming anyone," said defense attorneys, citing recorded conversations that have been transcribed. "Rather, it is always Evola who initiates conversations about violence and attempts to steer conversations in that direction."

Hale was arrested Jan. 8 at Chicago's federal courthouse as he prepared to attend a civil hearing before U.S. Northern District Judge Joan Lefkow, whom he allegedly sought to have killed. Lefkow late last year had issued an order against Hale's organization in a trademark case and forbid his continuing use of the name "Church of the Creator."

Hale's organization is now known as the Creativity Movement.

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