HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Harold C. "Hal" Turner, the ultra-right-wing radio host who spied on white extremists for the FBI, says he expects to get slammed with a maximum 10-year prison term when he is sentenced Tuesday for threatening three Chicago judges in an Internet blog post last year.
"I know they're going to hit me with the Max Sentence because they want to deter others from even thinking what I had the temerity to write," Turner, 48, of North Bergen, declared in an e-mail message from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he has been held since his conviction in August.
"Frankly, any sentence they give me other than probation is gonna be a Death Sentence," he wrote.
An incendiary talk show host and blogger, Turner gained notoriety for his hate-filled rants and racist commentary to a largely white-supremacist audience. Recruited as a confidential source in 2003, his unique access to leaders in the movement led the FBI to regard him as a valuable asset in combating domestic terrorism, records show.
But after a stormy relationship, during which Turner quit once and was twice "closed" by the agency, the FBI terminated him as a source in 2007 due to his dangerous rhetoric and serious control problems.
Turner was convicted Aug. 13 -- on the government's third try -- for using his blog to terrorize a panel of federal appeals court judges for upholding handgun bans in Chicago and Oak Park, Ill.
Prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter to impose a prison term above the 33- to 41-month range recommended under federal sentencing guidelines.
A longer sentence is warranted, they argued in court papers, because Turner committed at least two acts of obstruction of justice by giving false testimony at his trials and attempting to intimidate a key witness, his FBI handler, to prevent the handler from testifying against him.
In his e-mail message, Turner wrote that the Aryan Brotherhood, Aryan Nations, neo-Nazis and skinheads all will be out to get him in prison "because of the work I did against their interests. And if it isn't one of those groups that kill me, it will be one of the Minority groups who get told I'm some evil racist whatever."
Turner expounded on his fears in a separate e-mail message to his wife, Phyllis.
"There are two types of people who get murdered in federal prison: child molesters and 'snitches,"' he wrote. "While I didn't 'snitch' on anyone; (a snitch is someone who rats-out someone else to get themselves out of trouble) I seriously doubt the Aryan Brotherhood will draw any distinction between a 'snitch' and a national security intelligence operative, which is what I did with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force."
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago said Turner crossed the line of protected speech when he wrote in June 2009 that 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Richard Posner, William Bauer and Frank Easterbrook "deserve to be killed" for a ruling that Turner feared would open the door for local gun bans across the country.
Turner labeled the judges traitors, condemned their decision as "the most spectacular act of judicial malfeasance" he had ever witnessed, and accused them of violating the Constitution and ignoring a major Supreme Court ruling.
He crossed the line, the government said, with language intended to intimidate the judges when he wrote they had acted "in a manner so sleazy and cunning as to deserve the ultimate punishment." They deserved to be made "such an example of as to send a message to the entire judiciary: Obey the constitution or die"
Turner maintained the posting was nothing more than protected political commentary, but the third jury didn't buy it.
The jurors took less than two hours to find Turner guilty of a single count of threatening to assault and murder the judges with the intent to impede, intimidate and retaliate against them in the performance of their official duties.
His two earlier trials, in December 2009 and March 2010, ended with hung juries that reportedly leaned toward acquittal.
After sitting silently through the first trial, Turner testified at his second trial that he was not a racist and he didn't believe the racist "trash talk" he spewed. He conceded he built up a following with his racist and violent rhetoric, but insisted his antics were only meant to shock his audience.
The third trial featured strong testimony from the judges, who said they felt personally threatened, particularly by Turner's references to the murders of the mother and husband of one of their colleagues, Judge Joan Lefkow.
In a devastating move, prosecutors also called two of Turner's Joint Terrorism Task Force handlers as rebuttal witnesses after the defense rested.
The handlers -- Special Agent Stephen Haug of the FBI and Detective Sgt. Leonard Nerbetski of the New Jersey State Police -- contradicted key elements of Turner's testimony by denying they had given him legal advice on the limits of lawful speech, or that Turner had been instructed to "ratchet up his rhetoric" to help the FBI find the killer of Lefkow's family in 2005.
In their sentencing memo, prosecutors said Turner has spent years trying to undermine judicial independence by attempting to coerce judges at all levels to render decisions based on fear and not on the law.
While Turner claims he was merely acting in his persona as a so-called shock jock, his attacks, broadcast "to an audience containing members of violent and extreme groups, prompted the U.S. Marshals Service to assign protective details to many of the judges for extended periods of time," prosecutors said.
Turner's intimidation tactics continued even after his arrest, the government said.
Upon learning that his former FBI handler would be a witness at his third trial, prosecutors said, Turner sent him a series of text messages threatening to expose "specific things about the agent if (he) dared to testify against him," prosecutors wrote.
Since his conviction, Turner has continued to demonstrate his "disrespect for the law and his conniving way of violating rules with which he disagrees," prosecutors say. They allege he arranged for tobacco, a contraband substance, to be smuggled to him at the detention center in a package marked legal mail.
With "nothing to lose," Turner is promising to open up "with both barrels" when he addresses the court at sentencing.
Turner's new attorney, Ronald G. Russo, plans to argue for a lighter sentence than the guidelines recommend, and said he and Turner are pinning their hopes on an appeal.
"There are lots of things that we're going to appeal, not least of which is that it was simply legal error for the judge to permit this case to go to a jury," Russo said. "We really feel it's a question of law that should have been resolved by the court in his favor."
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