HARTFORD, Conn. — A New Jersey blogger facing charges in two states for allegedly making threats against lawmakers and judges was trained by the FBI on how to be deliberately provocative, his attorney said yesterday.
Hal Turner worked for the FBI from 2002 to 2007 as an "agent provocateur" and was taught by the agency "what he could say that wouldn't be crossing the line," said defense attorney Michael Orozco.
"His job was basically to publish information which would cause other parties to act in a manner which would lead to their arrest," Orozco said.
Prosecutors have acknowledged that Turner was an informant who spied on radical right-wing organizations, but the defense has said Turner was not working for the FBI when he allegedly made threats against Connecticut legislators and wrote that three federal appellate judges in Illinois deserved to die.
"But if you compare anything that he did say when he was operating, there was no difference. No difference whatsoever," Orozco said.
Special Agent Ross Rice, a spokesman for the FBI in Chicago, said he would not comment on or even confirm Turner's relationship with the agency.
Orozco spoke to reporters after a court hearing in Hartford yesterday. Turner, 47, of North Bergen, N.J., did not appear, because he is in federal custody in Illinois. His arraignment on the Connecticut charges was rescheduled for Oct. 19.
In June, Turner urged his readers to "take up arms" against Connecticut lawmakers and suggested government officials should "obey the Constitution or die," because he was angry over legislation — later withdrawn — that would have given lay members of Roman Catholic churches more control over their parish's finances.
He wrote in Internet postings the same month that the Illinois 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 at the federal courthouse.
Orozco officially joined Turner's defense team in the Connecticut case yesterday, with approval from Superior Court Judge David Gold. Orozco said his Newark, N.J.-based firm has been representing Turner for the past five years, including during his FBI informant years.
Turner's Connecticut attorney, Matthew R. Potter, said it was too early to tell which trial would move forward first. Orozco said he planned First Amendment defenses in both cases.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, said the office would not comment on Orozco's statements.