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Wednesday, March 02, 2005  

News: Matt Hale judge finds family murdered

You probably heard the news in passing within the last couple days. Members of a federal judge's family have been killed. Investigators are wondering if retaliation might have been the motive. Though most criminal cases are heard in state courts, those involving interstate activity or criminal syndicates may be tried in federal courts. Occassionally, a defendant displeased by the outcome will have his associates strike back. Three federal judges have been killed during the last 25 years. But, it is unlikely that some disgruntled mob boss caught in the tentacles of RICO ordered this hit. The judge was not just any jurist. She was the person who heard the trademark infringement case of white supremacist Matt Hale's World Church of the Creator. Though the case was the kind of relatively simple civil matter that usually ends with an order to desist and a fine, nothing involving hatemonger Hale is ever truly simple. The New York Times reports what presiding over the case may have cost the judge.

CHICAGO -- For Joan Humphrey Lefkow, the nightmare began shortly after her appointment as a federal judge in 2000, when an Oregon group's lawsuit to block white supremacists from using a name it had trademarked, World Church of the Creator, landed in her lap.

Soon, Judge Lefkow found her home address and family photographs posted along with violent threats on hate-filled Web sites. Last April, one of the Aryan movement's most notorious leaders was convicted of plotting her murder.

On Tuesday, Judge Lefkow was under armed federal guard in an undisclosed place, mourning the deaths of Michael F. Lefkow, her husband of 30 years, and Donna Humphrey, her 89-year-old mother, whom she found dead of gunshots to the head in their basement the evening before.

"I think she's very upset with herself, maybe, for being a judge and putting her family in this danger," said Laura Lefkow, 20, the third of the judge's five daughters, "but there's no way she should have known."

Throughout his career as a leader in the racist movement, violence as been an adjunct to Hale's actions. Members of the 'Creativity' organization have been convicted of assault and murder. The most notorious crime spree did not result in a conviction because the perpetrator committed suicide at the end of it. In 1999, Hale follower Benjamin Smith set out to maim and murder as many people of color as he could in Illinois. He injured nine and killled two before taking his own life. The murdered men were African-American basketball coach Ricky Birdsong and a Chinese graduate student. The crime spree was a response to Hale being denied the privilege of practicing law in Illinois because of his dubious character.

With any other type of defendant, the trademark infringement case that led white supremacists to focus on Judge Lefkow would have been forgettable. The Oregon group which had called itself the World Church of the Creator for decades had an unassailable claim. There was nothing controversial about the judge's ruling. The proper response would have been for the defendant to alter his organization's name, probably to something similar. (In fact, that is what occurred, despite Hale's opposition.) Matt Hale's irrational response was to order his bodyguard to kill Judge Lefkow. He was convicted of that crime, with the bodyguard, who taped conversations, the star witness. Hale is scheduled to be sentenced for attempting to have the judge murdered March 6. The timing of the murders of Judge Lefkow's husband and mother seems to be in response to the sentencing, as Smith's crime spree was in response to the unfavorable resolution of that conflict.

Creativity has been in turmoil since before Hale's trial. He ejected several long term members about three years ago. After he was taken into custody, another disgruntled Creator sold books written by the 'religion's' founder, Ben Klassen, to anti-racism activists for a pittance. Creators had relied on selling the books for income. The remaining active participants have begged for donations to maintain their web sites. Still, it seems most likely that persons associated with organized racism killed Judge Lefkow's family members. Authorities are saying it is too soon to reach any conclusions, but have apparently focused on white supremacists in their investigation.

Not everyone is appalled by the murders. Some racists are celebrating them. Aniong them is short-wave radio show host Hal Turner. He has turned his web page into a salute to the murderers, who he assumes to be white supremacists. Hale's father, Richard Hale, a former police officer, says his son could not have had anything to do with the murders. News 25 has the story.

The elder Hale says, ''He's in solitary confinement. He can only see his mother and father and attorney if he has one. We see him through thick glass by use of telephone. We haven't touched him in more than two years. It's a terrible life. There's no way he could have communicated with anybody to do anything and he would have no reason to do it in the first place. It's just crazy, but everybody is jumping onto Matt Hale.''

But, to those of us who are familiar with Hale's 'career,' that is not convincing. His modus operandi has been to set the stage for violent acts, but have others carry them out. He did not commit the Illinois assaults and murders, but seems to have known they were coming. But for his affirmative response to a question about murdering Judge Lefkow, Hale might have denied responsibility in that case, too. Nor did any plotting have to be immediate. Plans to murder the judge date back at least three years. Plans to substitute family members may have existed just as long.

It is early in the investigation of these murders. However, I will not be surprised if the trail of evidence leads to a would-be Aryan ruler of the world, Matt Hale.

Reasonably related

• Matt Hale was denied a license to practice law because of doubts about his moral fitness. However, that rarely happens. Several leaders of organized racism are lawyers. They include Kirk Lyons, Richard Barrett and Edgar Steele. Steele is also a blogger.

• Why is the white supremacist 'religion' called Creativity? Its adherents maintain that only white people are capable of creating civilizations. Learn more about Creativity here.

• Who is Matt Hale, really? He has claimed to be a white supremacist since he was in elementary school. For most of its existence, his 'church' was headquartered in his bedroom in his father's house. Hale, now in his 30s, has seldom lived on his own or engaged in other behavior associated with adulthood. He seems to have never grown up.

5:00 PM