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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Neo-Nazi White returns to court (USA)

William A. White, Roanoke's most vociferous racist and the self-proclaimed commander of a neo-Nazi organization, again faces criminal charges.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision released Monday, reinstated a charge that White encouraged violence against the foreman of a Chicago jury that convicted a fellow white supremacist years ago.

"Although First Amendment speech protections are far-reaching, there are limits," a three-judge panel from the court wrote.

The ruling reverses a judge's dismissal of the charge on free-speech grounds last July, before White was convicted of similar charges in Roanoke.

White, serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence, now faces the prospect of being returned to Chicago. He is charged with posting the name, address and telephone number of the foreman of a jury that convicted neo-Nazi leader Matthew Hale in 2004 of plotting to have a federal judge killed.

Although White made no direct threats against the juror, prosecutors had argued that his words must be viewed in the context of other material on overthrow.com, the now-defunct website that carried his inflammatory rhetoric.

The court of appeals noted that White once wrote that "everyone associated with the Matt Hale trial has deserved assassination for a long time."

White, who moved to Roanoke in 2004 and created the American National Socialist Workers Party, is currently serving time in a federal prison in Beckley, W.Va.

After years of pushing the line between free speech and illegal conduct, he was convicted in December of making racially motivated threats against people in Missouri, Delaware and Virginia.

Nishay Sanan, a Chicago attorney who represents White, said he plans to ask the full court of appeals to review Monday's decision.

In dismissing the charge last July, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman noted that White broke no laws when he dug up the publicly available contact information for the juror and posted it to overthrow.com.

As for the government's argument that White's intent to have the juror harmed was betrayed by other posts on a website viewed by violent racists, Adelman wrote: "An intimidating context alone does not remove the protection of the First Amendment."
That may be true, the higher court conceded. But such a question should be decided by a jury at trial, it said, not by a judge on a motion to dismiss.

Whether White is guilty of soliciting harm against the juror turns on his intent at the time he made the posts, which can best be determined once a jury hears additional evidence, the court ruled.

The ruling appears to open the door for prosecutors to bring up other posts on overthrow.com in which White has written that the "enemies" of the white supremacy movement should be harassed, intimidated and lynched.

Shortly before he was arrested in October 2008, White was preparing to distribute a magazine with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on the cover. The illustration showed Obama's head in the sights of an assassin's rifle, with the cross hairs extended to form a swastika. Below the image was the headline:
"Kill this n-----?"

When White's appeal was argued earlier this year, appellate Judge Richard Posner picked up on the government's assertion that White's carefully selected words amounted to a coded solicitation.

Posner brought up the words of King Henry II of England, who supposedly once asked aloud, "Will no one rid me of this pestilent priest?" before his knights took the hint and killed Thomas Becket.

Queried by Posner about the case, Sanan said the king should be given the same protection today that White was afforded under the First Amendment.

"Not punishable?" Posner retorted. "You're kidding."