A right-wing New Jersey blogger charged with threatening federal judges told a jury Thursday that his racist Internet rants were an FBI-sanctioned ruse to "flush out" dangerous neo-Nazi and white supremacist members of his audience.
"I'm not a white supremacist," Hal Turner testified at a retrial in Brooklyn. "Never have been."
Turner, 47, of North Bergen, N.J., has used his testimony to detail his career as a paid informant for an FBI agent investigating extremists. Prosecutors haven't disputed he was an informant, but say he acted on his own last year when he wrote that three federal judges in Chicago "must die" for a decision on gun control and posted their photos and the courthouse.
Asked on cross-examination Thursday about another blog posting that lauded the 2005 slaying of the mother and husband of another federal judge in Chicago, Turner insisted that the FBI had encouraged him to do it to help identify the killer.
The missive was meant to "improve my anti-government image with the people we were trying to flush out," he said.
The case stems from a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling by judges Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook and William Bauer that upheld a district court ruling dismissing lawsuits challenging handgun bans in Chicago and Oak Park.
The same day, Turner blasted the decision with a lengthy Internet posting. In one passage, he quoted Thomas Jefferson as saying, "The tree of liberty must be replenished from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots," court papers said.
Authorities say he then went too far by writing: "Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges must die. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty."
Earlier this week, the three judges testified they felt threatened by Turner's tirade.
"It's obviously a threat," Posner said. "It sounds like another murder is needed ... namely of me."
The defense has sought to portray Turner as a "shock jock" and fierce gun control opponent whose tirades were protected by the First Amendment.
Turner's original trial last year ended with a hung jury. If convicted at the retrial, he faces up to 10 years in prison.