Posted Apr 20, 2011 04:53 pm CDT
A federal district judge has reversed a jury conviction earlier this year of a self-avowed neo-Nazi accused of using a now-defunct website to solicit harm to the foreman of a federal jury.
The government argued that William White, although he did not expressly call for jury foreman Mark Hoffman to be harmed in his Internet post on overthrow.com, had intended that result when he published specific identifying details about the juror. The juror was foreman of a jury that convicted another white supremacist, Matthew Hale, for soliciting the murder of a federal judge in Chicago.
In January, the jury hearing White’s case agreed with the government and he was convicted of solicitation.
However, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, yesterday reversed White’s conviction, saying that his intent to harm the foreman had not been proven and that his post was protected by the First Amendment, according to the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune.
“That defendant may have intended others … be harmed only shows that defendant knew how to speak directly when he wanted to,” said Adelman, who was brought in from Milwaukee to hear the Chicago case, of other posts by White containing more violent imagery. “The absence of any language calling for harm to Hoffman … cuts strongly against a finding of intent.”
At another point, he added, “Knowledge, suspicion or even hope that something might happen to Hoffman is not enough,” noted the Tribune.
In 2009, Adelman had granted a motion to dismiss by White, giving similar reasons for doing so in his opinion (PDF) at that time.
However, the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled, saying that White’s intent was a question of fact that for the government to prove at trial.
White is currently imprisoned and could soon be released, since Adelman reportedly declined a prosecution request for a stay. The government hasn’t yet decided whether to appeal.