Hale loyalist turns on him at trial

Chicago Sun-Times/April 14, 2004
By Natasha Korecki

The witness finally came clean after the White Man's Bible was slammed before him on the stand.

Yes, he followed many of the racist doctrines in this book. And yes, he even blamed Sept. 11 on the Jews.

But this wasn't white supremacist Matt Hale's testimony during the second day of his trial Tuesday.

It was government witness Jon Fox, a former Hale confidant whose extremist opinions were exposed before a racially diverse jury as defense attorneys tried to discredit key pieces of the prosecution's case.

Fox and federal informant Tony Evola, who could testify today, are crucial to proving charges that Hale solicited the murder of federal Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow.

Fox testified Tuesday that he was with Hale when he refused to be served with a court order asking Hale to stop using the phrase World Church of the Creator on the group's Web site and elsewhere. An Oregon-based church had trademarked the name, which was the subject of a court case in which Lefkow ruled against Hale.

"He shouted out to me he wanted them dead, the judge, the attorneys. ... He wanted the church burned down around [the pastor's] head," said Fox, who had a closely shaven head and a long, bushy beard. "He just straight up asked me if I or anyone in my organization could do that. I told him no."

Fox also testified that he witnessed Hale write an e-mail that Fox feared would incite members to riot. But defense attorney Thomas Durkin countered that Hale was quoting Ben Klassen, who authored the racist teachings in the White Man's Bible.

Durkin accused Fox of being an unreliable witness motivated by a personal grudge.

Both Fox and an earlier government witness, James Burnett, admitted they had lied to federal agents during the investigation, either to protect Hale or out of fear of charges against themselves. Fox also publicly attested to his leader's innocence in front of television cameras just after Hale's arrest in January 2003.

Durkin said Fox later became Hale's chief accuser because he wanted to take Hale's lead position as Pontifex Maximus in the group. Fox acknowledged Tuesday that he did want to start a new group with a new name but denied he wanted to oust Hale.

Durkin also said Fox had a personal vendetta against Hale, holding him responsible for Fox's young daughter becoming pregnant by another group member. Fox insisted he didn't blame Hale.

Durkin, who on Monday filed an emergency order trying to dismiss Fox as an incompetent witness, also said Fox could have memory problems due to manic depressive disorder. Fox said he doesn't have memory problems.

Burnett, the other witness against Hale, talked about the inner workings of Hale's group and testified Monday that Hale celebrated a 1999 shooting spree at a public meeting of Hale followers. He also testified that Hale called Lefkow a "traitor" and said she was "married to a Jew."

But Durkin got Burnett to note the group's small-scale following. The "world" church headquarters is in a room in the house of Hale's father and most public meetings only draw a handful of people, Burnett said. As one of Hale's closest followers, Burnett's tasks included vacuuming.

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