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Blogger convicted for death threats against federal judges upholding gun control laws

A right-wing blogger from New Jersey was convicted by a federal jury Friday for death threats made on his blog against federal judges who upheld a gun control law. Harold "Hal" Turner [advocacy website], a one-time FBI informant on white-supremacist groups, was convicted [NJ Record report] in Brooklyn of a single count of threatening to assault and murder federal judges. Prosecutors alleged that Turner wrote on his blog that federal judges should die and posted the courthouse address and a map which prosecutors claimed showed his intent to intimidate and impede the judges from doing their job. Turner faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Federal prosecutors had tried twice before to convict Turner but both efforts ended with mistrials. The charges stem from comments Turner made on his blog against three judges from the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] who ruled [JURIST report] in June in favor of two municipal gun control laws in Illinois: William Bauer, Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner.

Threats against judges, US attorneys, and assistant US attorneys have more than doubled over the last six years, according to a report [text, PDF] released [JURIST report] in January by the US Department of Justice. The report found that judges, US attorneys, and assistant US attorneys received 1,278 threats in 2008, compared to 592 in 2003. Additionally, the report found that threats are not always consistently and promptly reported. In December 2008, Brian Nichols was sentenced to seven life terms to be served consecutively in addition to other punishment for shooting and killing a superior court judge [JURIST reports] and other personnel in an Atlanta courthouse in an attempted escape. In April 2008, Ohio resident David Tuason was indicted for allegedly threatening to blow up the US Supreme Court building [JURIST report] and attack black men, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Other death threats [JURIST report] have been reported in recent years against Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and now-retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

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