Former follower says Hale urged killing of federal judge

Witness says Hale wanted Oregon minister's church burned down

Associated Press/April 14, 2004
By Mike Robinson

Chicago -- A former follower of white supremacist Matthew Hale testified Tuesday that Hale, angry over the outcome of a trademark infringement lawsuit, asked him if he would kill the judge, some of the attorneys involved and the leader of the Oregon-based religious group that sued.

"He shouted how he wanted them dead -- the judge and the attorneys, they had to die," Jon Fox, 44, told the federal jury.

Fox, who also was once a member of a right-wing militia group in Kentucky and now lives in a homeless shelter, said that as he and Hale walked down an East Peoria street Hale also told him he wanted the Oregon minister's "church burned down around his head."

"He just straight up asked if I or anybody I know in the organization could do that," Fox testified.

"And what did you tell him?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria J. Peters asked.

"I told him no," Fox said.

Hale, 32, is charged with three counts of obstruction of justice and two counts alleging he solicited two men to kill U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow.

Prosecutors say Hale was enraged after Lefkow ordered him to stop using the name World Church of the Creator because it was trademarked by the Oregon religious organization, TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation -- Family of URI Inc. The Oregon group has no ties to Hale and has said it does not share his racist views.

The husky, heavily bearded Fox said he was at one time the head of the Kentucky chapter of Hale's group but later went to East Peoria to take over the Illinois chapter when Hale gave him $1,200 in expenses to move himself and his three children out of a homeless shelter.

Fox said he had read about Hale on the Internet and got to know him at a Ku Klux Klan rally in West Virginia in 1999.

When Lefkow handed down her order in 2002, Fox said, Hale vowed not to obey it and declared there was a plot against his group.

"He said there was a Jewish conspiracy," Fox testified.

Fox said he is no longer a member of the group, whose adherents have largely scattered since Lefkow issued an order making any members who can be identified as such responsible for a $200,000 fine for flouting her order.

Earlier Tuesday, another former follower, James Burnett, testified that Hale was an avid publicity seeker who had a hard time enlisting support and called a bedroom in his father's home "world headquarters."

"He had very few followers," Burnett said on cross examination.

"He loved media attention?" asked defense attorney Patrick Blegen.

"Yes, he did," said Burnett, a 30-year-old, unemployed East Peoria resident who said that before he met Hale he was "a self-proclaimed Nazi" and once went to jail for illegally entry into a motor vehicle.

Blegen's questions concerning Hale's lack of support and eagerness for publicity underlined a defense strategy of portraying the defendant as something less than the menacing figure jurors heard on a tape played Monday.

On the tape, Hale could be heard using slurs to describe blacks and Jews and praising follower Benjamin Smith, who went on a July 1999 shooting rampage targeting minorities in which he killed two people and himself.

"You know Smith was nutty?" Blegen asked.

"Yes," Burnett said.

The defense argued in opening statements Monday that the FBI planted a mole to lure Hale into a murder plot. They attorneys urged the jury not to condemn Hale for preaching a gospel of "racial holy war."

Security has been tight around the courtroom for Hale's trial, with an explosives sniffing dog, metal detector on the door and marshals requiring spectators and reporters to produce drivers licenses. At one point Monday, U.S. District James T. Moody took a juror aside after the juror, returning from a cigarette break, spotted the dog wearing a "K-9 Explosives" tag. Moody told him not to tell fellow jurors what he had seen because it might bias them on the case.

The trial is expected to last at least two weeks. If convicted, Hale could face up to 30 years in federal prison.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.