Hale juror: Neo-Nazi’s texts, calls terrifying
By NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporternkorecki@suntimes.com
Mark Hoffman was sitting in his office at Northwestern University when he got the first call.
The man on the other end of the line already had his cell phone number. He then recited Hoffman’s home address and birth date.
But it was the last question that struck fear in him, Hoffman said.
“Did you serve on the Matt Hale jury?”
“I don’t remember,” was the best Hoffman said he could reply.
“That’s all I need to know,” the man said, then abruptly hung up, according to Hoffman.
Hoffman would eventually be deluged with text messages that day in September 2008, four years after he led in convicting Hale -- and the same day his photo appeared on a hate website. Next to his photo was all his personal information, including his sexual orientation, his partner’s African American background and even the name of his cat, “Homeboy.”
Neo-Nazi William White, of Roanoke, Va., is on trial for posting the information on his site, overthrow.com; federal prosecutors say he was encouraging violence against Hoffman.
The posting called Hoffman a “gay, Jewish anti-racist” and said he was responsible for wrongly convicting Hale.
Hoffman said it was surreal that he was ever picked to serve on Hale’s jury in 2004, though he said he was open-minded and considered all the evidence.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Hoffman testified. “I was a gay, white man with an African American partner who worked at Northwestern.”
Hale was convicted of ordering the head of his security to kill U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow. That man was an FBI informant. Hale is serving a 40-year sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara pointed to past postings by White involving Hale and how White applauded when two of Lefkow’s family members were murdered by a disgruntled litigant, who was not tied to a hate group.
“It wasn’t the defendant’s intention to harm Mark Hoffman personally. The defendant wanted somebody else to do it,” Ferrara said.
“Everyone involved in the Matt Hale trial deserved to be murdered,” Ferrara said White believed.
White’s lawyer Chris Shepherd told jurors all of the information posted on White’s site was already public. While questioning Hoffman, a second defense lawyer, Nishay Shanan, pointed out that White’s posts about Hoffman never asked anyone to harm him.
Hoffman, a former Associate Dean of Education at Northwestern University, said the texts and calls terrified him, especially after the 2005 Lefkow murders.
Hoffman had not been threatened with physical harm, he said, though he changed his phone number after someone left a phone message saying: “F---ing Jew bastard, are you too busy f---ing your n----- buddy? Pick up the phone.”
He also received texts that said “sodomize Obama,” and “cremate Jews,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman, who is not Jewish and is now a lawyer, briefly broke down on the stand as he talked about his life partner who was sitting in court.
In 2008, White’s Web grew controversial after he posted the headline “Kill This N - - - - -?” next to a photo of then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Another link on the site was headlined: “Kill Richard Warman,” and urged that the human rights lawyer be dragged into the street and shot. The site called for the lynching of six black teenagers charged with assault in a civil rights case in Jena, La.
Authorities took down the site in 2008.
Prosecutors said two former followers of White are expected to testify before the trial ends.