A New Jersey blogger accused of threatening to kill three federal judges has been an FBI informant and even told authorities about a potential plot to assassinate President Barack Obama, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Extremist blogger Hal Turner pleaded not guilty earlier in the day to charges that he threatened to kill three Chicago-based federal appeals judges.
At his bond hearing, defense attorney Michael Orozco said Turner, 47, of North Bergen, N.J., was not a danger to the community as federal prosecutors claim. Turner deserved to be released on bond, Orozco said, adding that he had served as an FBI confidential informant.
"He provided information about the potential assassination of President Obama," Orozco told U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Ashman.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Hogan told Ashman he "never heard anything about that" and said Turner's contacts with the FBI ended "quite some time ago." After court, Hogan and a federal spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment further about Turner's relationship with the FBI or federal marshals.
Ashman suggested that Orozco had only his client's word that he had given information about a potential assassination to federal authorities. The judge ordered Turner held in custody pending the outcome of an Aug. 10 continuation of the bond hearing.
After court, Orozco told reporters that Ashman was correct that he had no independent knowledge of what Turner had told federal marshals. But he said he would try to subpoena Turner's FBI "handler" for the Aug. 10 hearing.
Opinions or threats?
Turner had said in Internet postings in June that the three federal appeals judges "deserve to be killed" because they issued a ruling that upheld ordinances in Chicago and suburban Oak Park banning handguns. He included their photos and the room numbers of their chambers in Chicago's Everett M. Dirksen Federal Courthouse.
Orozco said Turner had never advocated the murder of judges but merely gave his opinion. He said that was "outlandish" but was nevertheless constitutionally protected free speech.
The lawyer also said Turner had stopped taking medicine for an unspecified emotional condition some time ago because "he doesn't need it."
"Whether it was for depression or what I don't know," he said.