Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bill White is So Screwed

Yes, we know that Bill White is an American and as such would appear to fall outside our self-assigned mandate to cover Canadian issues, but as part of the charges against him are as a result of his threats against two Canadians including Richard Warman, we thought we would post an update on his upcoming trial. A short summary? It ain't looking good for Billy:

Ruling clears way for neo-Nazi trial

A Chicago judge said William A. White's Web comments were not protected free speech.

By Laurence Hammack

A neo-Nazi leader known for pushing the boundaries of the First Amendment pushed too far when he advocated violence through his Web site, a federal judge in Chicago has ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge William Hibbler rejected William A. White's pre-trial argument that his online comments about a federal juror were protected free speech -- although that defense could be raised a second time at a jury trial set for March.

White, head of the Roanoke-based American National Socialist Workers Party, is in a Chicago jail on a charge of encouraging violence against the foreman of a jury that convicted a fellow white supremacist.

In a posting to his Web site that criticized the verdict, White listed the juror's name, address and telephone numbers. Although he made no direct threats, federal prosecutors say the post should be viewed in the larger context of, his former Web site where they say White encouraged racial attacks against dozens of people to an audience prone to both prejudice and violence.

Had White limited his remarks to criticism of the juror's role in the case, that would have been protected speech, Hibbler wrote in a brief opinion, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, denying a defense motion to dismiss the charge.

"When the defendant went further and listed personal contact information about [the juror] combined with other postings which advocated violence toward identified individuals ... he stepped beyond the protection of the First Amendment," Hibbler wrote.

Nishay Sanan, a Chicago attorney who represents White, said Wednesday that he can still make a free speech argument when the case goes to trial.

While the pre-trial motion had asked Hibbler to dismiss the charge on legal grounds, a jury could be asked to consider testimony and additional arguments before deciding the case, Sanan said.

Sanan and co-counsel Chris Shepherd had cited several U.S. Supreme Court cases in support of their argument that White's postings, however crass and incendiary, deserve First Amendment protection.

One case involved a member of the Ku Klux Klan who suggested during a cross burning that vengeance be taken against the government for suppressing the rights of whites. The Klansman was convicted under an Ohio law that made it illegal to advocate a crime as a means of political reform.

In reversing the man's conviction, the Supreme Court established a two-part standard for criminal incitement: The speech must be intended to incite imminent illegal actions, and it must be likely to produce such a result.

"The government has shown neither imminence nor likelihood, yet proceeds on an indictment of White in violation of his freedom of speech," his attorneys wrote in court filings.

Federal prosecutors responded that in making that determination that "the postings themselves cannot be viewed in a vacuum, but must be seen in the context of as a whole."

That argument has allowed the government, at least in pre-trial proceedings, to cite numerous inflammatory postings by White: his calls to lynch six teenagers charged with assault in a high-profile Louisiana case; his talk of a murderous rampage in Roanoke; his magazine cover that put President Obama in the crosshairs of an assassin's rifle.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago, declined to comment on Hibbler's ruling.

The judge's decision applies only to the charge White faces in Chicago, which carries a punishment of up to 10 years. Once that case is resolved, the 31-year-old will be returned to Roanoke to face additional indictments.

A grand jury in Roanoke has accused White of using his Web site and e-mail to threaten and harass targets across the country, including a banker, a newspaper columnist, a civil rights attorney and a small-town mayor.

White, a Roanoke landlord, has been called "possibly the loudest and most obnoxious neo-Nazi leader in America" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based organization that monitors hate groups.

White supremacists have increasingly used the Internet to spread their message and recruit new members, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino.

Hibbler's decision is consistent with other court rulings that draw the line between online commentary and criminal activity, Levin said.

"If the Internet is viewed as the public square from a First Amendment perspective, that doesn't mean you can go to the public square and threaten people," Levin said. "I would even argue that the Internet makes it worse, because you're putting it out there to so many other people."

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