Freedom of Speech Put to the Test

October 1st, 2009 | Sources: Washington Post


Last June, Internet radio host Hal Turner disagreed with a decision by 3 Chicago-based federal judges, in which they rejected the National Rifle Association’s lawsuit designed to overturn a pair of bans on handguns.

So he shared his opinions on his blog. “Let me be the first to say this plainly: these judges deserve to be killed,” he wrote. “Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions.”

AimHereA day later, Turner posted photos of the judges and a map showing routes to the courthouse where they presided.

He appended details regarding the location of “anti-truck bomb barriers” in front of the courthouse.

Not too long thereafter, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald charged Turner, whose blog is followed by white supremacists, with threatening the lives of the judges. Turner was sent to prison, and his bail request was denied.

Turner’s attorney, Michael Orozco claims the Feds overreacted. “He gave an opinion. He did not say go out and kill,” he told the Washington Post. “This is political hyperbole, nothing more. He’s a shock jock.”

Turner’s blog has been taken down. On it, Turner called the judges, who are generally felt to be conservative, “unpatriotic, deceitful scum.” He added that the only thing preventing judges and “the government” from achieving ultimate power “is the fact that We The People have guns. Now, that is very much in jeopardy.”

TJTurner then quoted Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be replenished from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots.” To this, Turner added an exhortation of his own: “It is time to replenish the tree!”

Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with that very Jefferson quote when he was nabbed.

According to First Amendment scholar Martin Redish, most of Turner’s rants are protected by the Constitution, including his statements that the judges should be cut down.

But Turner probably crossed the line by printing information about the judges’ whereabouts and a map of the courthouse.

“I would give very strong odds that once he said that stuff, it takes it out of any kind of hyperbole range,” Redish told the Post.


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