CHICAGO — A federal judge has dismissed a charge that an avowed white supremacist used his Web site to encourage harm to a juror, saying that the postings were protected by the constitutional right to freedom of speech.
William White of Roanoke, Va., the self-styled leader of the American National Socialist Workers Party, published the name, photograph, home address and phone number of the juror on his Web site, overthrow.com. The juror had been a foreman of a jury that in April 2004 convicted another avowed white supremacist, Matthew Hale, of soliciting the murder of a federal judge.
Judge Lynn Adelman said in his July 21 ruling in U.S. v. White that the postings stopped short of specifically urging anyone to harm the juror.
"The fact that defendant knew that white supremacists sometimes viewed his Web site and sometimes harmed people they perceived as enemies is insufficient to transform his lawful statements about Juror A into criminal advocacy," Adelman wrote.
"Knowledge or belief that one's speech, even speech advocating law breaking, may cause others to act, does not remove the speech from the protection of the First Amendment unless the speech is directed to inciting imminent lawless action and is likely to produce such action."
White's Web site regularly attacked non-whites, Jews and homosexuals and expressed approval of acts of violence. The foreman's name had not previously been public; the juror had been identified only as "Juror A" in court documents.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary S. Shapiro said the government was reviewing the ruling and would consider what steps to take next if any.
White's attorney, Nishay Kumar Sanan, said Adelman "obviously followed the law and made the right decision — that Bill White's speech was protected by the First Amendment." He said the government already had sought to stay the ruling while it decides whether to appeal.
White also faces federal charges in Virginia of making online threats to several other people, including a civil rights lawyer in Canada and a mayor in New Jersey. Even if the government does not appeal, White cannot be released until there is a bond hearing in the Virginia case, Sanan said.
Adelman, whose court is in Milwaukee, was brought into the case after Chief Judge James F. Holderman recused all of the judges of the Chicago-based U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois from sitting in the case. He acted because the Hale case involved a Chicago-based judge.