Supremacist on tape says murder of basketball coach 'must have been fun'

Associated Press/April 15, 2004
By Mike Colias

Chicago -- In the final meeting between white supremacist Matthew Hale and the FBI informant he is accused of soliciting to kill a federal judge, a worried-sounding Hale chastised the man for showing up at his home unannounced and said repeatedly that he couldn't talk about their past conversations.

"The more unusual activity that occurs, the more people are going to presume things that aren't true, and that's just what I don't want," Hale can be heard telling Anthony Evola on a tape Evola secretly made for the FBI in December 2002.

When Evola suggested that he could stay with Hale for a few days as "an alibi," Hale replied: "If I were to say 'yes' to that, I would technically and maybe be considered some kind of accessory in something I do not want to be an accessory in."

The tape was played Thursday as jurors heard a fourth day of testimony in Hale's trial on charges of soliciting the murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow.

Prosecutors said Hale was outraged after Lefkow ordered him to stop using the name World Church of the Creator, which is trademarked by an Oregon-based religious group, TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation _ Family of URI Inc., which has no ties to Hale and disavows his views.

Defense attorneys argued in opening statements that the FBI planted a mole to lure Hale into a murder plot. Lefkow was never attacked.

Evola, who became Hale's bodyguard, testified Thursday that Hale sent him an e-mail shortly after Lefkow's ruling asking him to find home addresses for the judge and the attorneys involved in the trademark case.

A few days later, on Dec. 9, 2002, Evola sent an e-mail back to Hale saying he had "called the "exterminator" about "the rat problem" they had talked about. "He is working to get rid of the female rat right now," Evola wrote.

Prosecutors on Thursday showed the jury an Internet mail service document confirming Hale received that e-mail and that it was opened.

A week after the e-mail, on Dec. 17, Evola showed up at Hale's East Peoria home. As they walked around the block, Evola secretly taped the conversation that was played for the jury Thursday.

"The stuff you talked about last time, I just cannot talk about. I cannot talk about stuff like that, you know?" Hale can be heard saying on the tape.

Evola told him that what they discussed was "in motion" and he asked for more money. He also suggested that he could stay with Hale as "an alibi," an idea Hale rejected.

In addition to the solicitation to commit murder charges, Hale, who was arrested in January 2003, is charged with three counts of obstruction of justice.

One count accuses Hale of urging his father to lie to a federal grand jury by saying Hale broke down in tears while being interviewed about follower Benjamin Smith's deadly 1999 shooting rampage through Illinois and Indiana.

On another of Evola's secretly taped conversations with Hale, also played for the jury Thursday, the white supremacist leader can be heard saying "it must have been pretty fun" for Smith to kill former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong, one of two people Smith shot to death before killing himself.

"He got out of the car and just walked up to him and point-blank range," Hale said in the June 23, 2000, conversation. "I'm guessing the first shot killed him. Anyway, it must have been pretty fun."

Smith always disliked basketball, Hale said on the tape.

Evola has testified that he was introduced to Hale while working as a pizza delivery driver and that members of Hale's group wanted him to distribute pamphlets to school children. Instead, he called the school system to warn it. The school system put Evola in touch with authorities.

The tapes played so far in the trial have been drenched in Hale's racial slurs and anti-Semitism, but the jury, which includes five blacks and a Latino, has shown little reaction.

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

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