Turner allegedly wrote on his blog that three appellate judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals "deserve to be killed," according to court papers filed by a FBI agent. "Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty," he allegedly wrote in a June 2 post on TurnerRadioNetwork.blogspot.com."A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions."
Turner, a resident of North Bergen, N.J., allegedly made the statements on June 2, the same day that the three appellate judges upheld a ban on handguns in Chicago and Oak Park, Ill. In his blog post, he allegedly referred to the 2005 murder of the husband and mother of U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow.
"Apparently, the 7th U.S. Circuit didn't get the hint after those killings," Turner allegedly wrote. "It appears another lesson is needed." The following day, Turner allegedly posted the judges' photos and work addresses and other publicly available information about them. The blog, which had been hosted by Google, is not currently accessible to the public.
Federal authorities allege that the blog posts support criminal charges of threatening to assault and murder a U.S. judge. But Turner might be able to successfully argue that his comments are a form of protected political speech, and not a serious threat.
"The question is, 'Is it a threat, or is it advocacy,'" says Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer with free speech group Public Citizen. Advocacy often is protected by the First Amendment, he says. But, he adds, even speech that just advocates a particular viewpoint can be deemed criminal if it's likely to result in imminent harm.