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Profile: Joan Humphrey Lefkow

Joan Humphrey Lefkow was a participant or observer in the following events:

The World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) loses a trademark infringement lawsuit brought against it by the Te-Ta-Ma Truth Foundation, which had successfully trademarked the name “Church of the Creator” years before. Federal District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow originally rules in WCOTC’s favor, but her verdict is overturned on appeal. She orders the group to stop using the name, to give up its Web addresses, and to turn over all printed material bearing the name. Group leader Matthew Hale refuses to comply, and files a lawsuit against Lefkow, claiming that she has ordered the destruction of the group’s Bibles. “If federal judges are to sit in judgment of the people, the people must be able to sit in judgment of them,” Hale says. The WCOTC’s various Web sites urge its followers to picket Lefkow’s church, and refer to her as “a white woman married to a Jew with three mixed grandchildren.” [New York Times, 1/9/2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005] For years afterwards, Lefkow will be plagued by an incessant round of death threats, as WCOTC and other white supremacist organizations publish her name, address, and family photographs on their Web sites along with an array of violent threats. In 2003, Hale will be charged with soliciting her murder (see January 9, 2003). “Underground” radio broadcaster Hal Turner will say on his show that Lefkow is “worthy of being killed,” adding that “it wouldn’t be legal, but in my opinion it wouldn’t be wrong.” In 2005, Lefkow’s husband and mother will be murdered, possibly by Hale supporters (see February 28, 2005). [New York Times, 3/2/2005]

Entity Tags: World Church of the Creator, Harold Charles (“Hal”) Turner, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Matthew Hale, Te-Ta-Ma Truth Foundation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), shows up for a contempt of court hearing in a Chicago courtroom based on his refusal to give up his group’s name after losing a trademark infringement lawsuit (see November 2002). When Hale appears, he is arrested for soliciting the murder of the judge who presided over the lawsuit, Federal District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Hale recently claimed Lefkow was prejudiced against him because she is married to a Jew and has children who are biracial. Law enforcement officials with Chicago’s Joint Terrorism Task Force say Hale asked another person to “forcibly assault and murder” Lefkow. FBI spokesman Thomas Kneir says: “Certainly freedom of speech and freedom of religion are important in our society here in America. But the threat of physical violence will not be tolerated.” US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald adds, “Freedom of speech does not include the freedom to solicit murder.” Hale is accompanied in the courtroom by about a dozen followers, many of whom raise their fists in what they call a Roman salute but that is more widely known as a Nazi salute. One WCOTC member, Shawm Powers, says: “This is totally bogus—it’s in our constitutional rights to believe in a religion. We are a bona fide religion, and they are trying to take that away from us. Matt Hale is not a violent man, he doesn’t advocate violence.” Anti-Defamation League official Richard Hirschhaut disagrees, saying: “Matt Hale has been allowed with impunity to engage in terrorist-like activity for four years now. He has had blood on his hands for more than four years. He is now where he should be.” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center calls Hale “the most dangerous American racist of his generation.” Attorney Glenn Greenwald, representing Hale, says he believes the charge against Hale stems from what he calls a misinterpretation of Hale’s statement that “we are in a state of war with Judge Lefkow.” Greenwald says: “They are probably trying to take things he said along the lines of political advocacy and turn it into a crime. The FBI may have interpreted this protected speech as a threat against a federal judge, but it’s probably nothing more than some heated rhetoric.” During Hale’s incarceration, special administrative measures will be imposed to reduce his ability to communicate with his followers. [CNN, 1/8/2003; New York Times, 1/9/2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005] The press will later learn that Hale solicited the murder from FBI informant Anthony Evola, a Chicago area pizza delivery man who was asked by Hale to distribute racist and anti-Semitic pamphlets to schoolchildren. Evola instead called the Chicago Public Schools to warn them about the racist material, and was later asked to become an FBI informant. In the months that followed, Evola became chief of Hale’s “White Beret” security squad and frequently traveled with Hale. Evola provided FBI officials with an email from Hale soliciting Lefkow’s home address, and a tape recording of a discussion between the two about Lefkow’s murder. On the tape, Evola said, “We going to exterminate the rat?” Hale replied, “Well, whatever you want to do basically.” Evola said, “The Jew rat.” Hale then said: “You know, my position has always been that I, you know, I’m going to fight within the law… but that information has been provided.… If you wish to do anything yourself, you can.” Evola replied, “Consider it done,” and Hale responded, “Good.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2003; New York Times, 3/2/2005; Associated Press, 4/26/2005] In addition, former WCOTC leader Jon Fox will testify that Hale asked him in December 2002 to kill Lefkow and others involved in the legal dispute. [Chicago Sun-Times, 4/14/2004; Chicago Tribune, 4/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Chicago Public Schools, Anthony Evola, Abraham Cooper, Glenn Greenwald, World Church of the Creator, Shawm Powers, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Thomas Kneir, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Richard Hirschhaut, Jon Fox, Matthew Hale

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal judge Joan Lefkow levies a $1,000/day fine against the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) for failing to comply with a ruling in a trademark infringement lawsuit. The WCOTC was ordered to stop using the name “Church of the Creator” as a result of losing the lawsuit months earlier (see November 2002), and WCOTC leader Matthew Hale is charged with soliciting Lefkow’s murder (see January 9, 2003). The WCOTC now calls itself the “Creativity Movement,” but continues to use the earlier name. Lefkow finds the group in contempt of court and orders its Web sites to be shut down until all trademarked terms are removed from them. An Australian Creativity adherent writes on a Creativity Web forum: “This is blatant discrimination! It has all the hallmarks of being a K_ke conspiracy to weasel that extra five cents out of the White Man, while telling him that he is doing this for the good of the White Race!” Another message on the forum says: “I’ll laugh if I ever get fined $1,000.00. I spit in the eye of the Jew vermin.” The Web site is shut down shortly after the messages are posted. Its hosts explain on another site: “You can thank the jews [sic] for making us waste our time and taking our money. We would mention the people who forced us to redo this site, but they would probably bring us to court because we mentioned their name without their permission.” Other anti-Semitic and white supremacist organizations are allowing the WCOTC to broadcast its messages and sell its wares on their sites. [Anti-Defamation League, 5/1/2003] In October 2003, Lefkow will fine the WCOTC $200,000 for ignoring her April ruling. It is not clear how the group will pay the fine, or even if it can. [Chicago Sun-Times, 10/25/2003]

Entity Tags: Matthew Hale, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, World Church of the Creator

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey are found dead of gunshots to the head in the Lefkows’ Chicago basement. The two are the husband and mother, respectively, of Federal District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, who has endured four years’ worth of death threats ever since she ordered the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) to abandon its name as a result of a trademark infringement lawsuit (see November 2002). Authorities are investigating whether members of the Creativity Movement, as the WCOTC is now known, are responsible for the murders. In 2004, WCOTC leader Matthew Hale was convicted of soliciting Lefkow’s murder (see April 26, 2004). Her daughter Laura Lefkow says, “I think she’s very upset with herself, maybe, for being a judge and putting her family in this danger, but there’s no way she should have known.” White supremacists celebrate the murders on their Web sites, while others theorize that Hale’s enemies murdered the two to affect his upcoming sentencing for his crimes (see April 6, 2005). Bill White, the editor of the Libertarian Socialist News, writes: “Everyone associated with the Matt Hale trial has deserved assassination for a long time. I don’t feel bad that Judge Lefkow’s family was murdered today. In fact, when I heard the story, I laughed.” Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, says, “We saw what happened the last time Matt Hale got slapped in the face by the system; the price of that was two dead and nine severely wounded.” Potok is referring to the 1999 killing spree by WCOTC member Benjamin Smith in response to Hale’s denial of a law license (see July 2-4, 1999). “Now Matt Hale is about to be sentenced, very probably, to most of his natural life to federal prison. It’s very possible that a Hale follower or sympathizer has decided to fight back.” Hale’s friend Billy Roper, who leads a group called White Revolution, disavows the murders, but draws a parallel between the Lefkow murders and the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992), saying: “We can stand alongside the federal law enforcement community in saying just as they felt a deep regret and sadness over the death of Randy Weaver’s family, so we also feel a deep sense of regret and sadness over the death of Judge Lefkow’s family. If it was the case that someone was misguided and thought that they were helping Matt Hale, then it would be similar in that other people had suffered for one person’s mistake.” Hale’s mother, Evelyn Hutcheson, says her son had nothing to do with the murders: “He had nothing to do with what went on last night. My son is sitting in a hole where he’s not allowed to even speak loud enough to be audible. Common sense would tell you, if he were into having somebody kill somebody—which he is not—would he have somebody go kill the judge’s family just before he’s sentenced? Somebody has done this to make him get an enhanced sentence.” Chicago Police Department official James Molloy says: “There is much speculation about possible links between this crime and the possible involvement of hate groups. This is but one facet of our investigation. We are looking in many, many directions.” [New York Times, 3/2/2005; Chicago Tribune, 3/10/2005] Days later, the Chicago police will say that a man with no connection to Hale’s group may be responsible for the shootings (see March 10, 2005).

Entity Tags: Donna Humphrey, Bill White, Benjamin Smith, Billy Roper, Evelyn Hutcheson, James Molloy, Matthew Hale, Mark Potok, World Church of the Creator, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Michael Lefkow, Laura Lefkow

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Bart Ross.Bart Ross. [Source: America's Most Wanted]Chicago police say that the murders of the husband and mother of a judge who ruled against white supremacist group the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After and February 28, 2005) may have been committed by a man with no connections to the group. Bart Ross of Albany Park, Illinois, shoots himself in the head during a routine traffic stop, dying minutes later. In his suicide note, Ross claims responsibility for the double murder of US District Judge Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother. However, police decline to claim that Ross is definitely the shooter. “We’re satisfied there is information in the letter that would point to Ross being in the Lefkow house that day” of the slayings, says Chicago Police Superintendent Phil Cline. The suicide note includes details of the shooting “that were not out in the media.” However, Cline says, “While we do characterize [Wednesday] night’s developments as significant, we are not prepared at this time to definitely say any one person is responsible for these homicides. This case is by no means closed.” Other documents retrieved from Ross’s minivan recount his bitterness and hatred for Lefkow and other judges, stemming from court dealings he has had over a medical condition. Police refuse to call any of the documents a “hit list,” though the documents include the names of several judges and lawyers. Lefkow dismissed a lawsuit by Ross last September. The day of the murders, Ross was served an eviction notice by Cook County deputies. Police are searching for DNA and other forensic evidence to tie Ross into the murders; Cline says, “We are attempting to learn as much as we possibly can about Bart Ross’s history—who he was, who he was associated with, and what he was doing in the days leading up to and following the Lefkow murders.” Local television station WMAQ receives a handwritten letter, signed Bart A. Ross, claiming that the author broke into the Lefkow home at 4:30 a.m. with the intention of killing the judge and anyone else in the house. According to the letter, the writer waited all day in a basement utility room before shooting the husband, Michael Lefkow, when Lefkow discovered him hiding in the room. The writer claims to have then shot the mother, Donna Humphrey, after she heard the gunshot and called out to her son-in-law. The writer says he then waited for the judge to come home, but left hours before she arrived later that evening. Police sources say they believe the letter to be legitimate. WCOTC leader Matthew Hale has been a prime suspect in soliciting the murders; Hale’s attorney Glenn Greenwald reveals that six to eight weeks before the murders, Hale’s mother asked him to pass what was clearly a coded message from Hale to a WCOTC follower. Greenwald says he refused because he did not understand what Hale was saying in the note. [Chicago Tribune, 3/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Bart Ross, Glenn Greenwald, Matthew Hale, Philip J. Cline, Donna Humphrey, Michael Lefkow, World Church of the Creator

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

White supremacist Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), receives a 40-year sentence for soliciting the murder of US District Court Judge Joan Lefkow (see January 9, 2003). Lefkow ruled against Hale’s group in a trademark dispute (see November 2002). Hale is sentenced after a rambling, two-hour statement in which he claims he is the victim. “I have to go back to a solitary cell—I have to go back to hell,” Hale tells Judge James Moody. “They want me to die in a hole.” In his statement, Hale compares the FBI to the Gestapo, says the national news media was out to get him, blames his former lawyer for representing him poorly, and chants the national anthem. He claims that he and Lefkow are “on the same side against these liars.” Moody, unmoved by Hale’s statement, gives Hale the maximum sentence for his crimes. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald argued that Hale’s crime was essentially an act of domestic terrorism and Moody agrees. “Mr. Hale is not concerned about taking someone’s life, but rather how to do it without getting caught,” Moody says. “I consider Mr. Hale to be extremely dangerous and the offense for which he was convicted to be extremely egregious.” After the ruling, Fitzgerald tells reporters, “I put no stock in his claims, the crocodile tears, that he didn’t do anything wrong.” Hale’s mother, Evelyn Hutcheson, tells reporters: “I think it’s absolutely horrible. “Matt’s the only one in there telling the… truth.” [National Public Radio, 4/6/2005; Associated Press, 4/7/2005] Hale will serve his sentence at the Florence, Colorado, “supermax” prison, the same prison where convicted bombers Eric Rudolph (see July 18, 2005) and Ted Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996) are held. [Chicago Sun-Times, 4/28/2005]

Entity Tags: World Church of the Creator, Evelyn Hutcheson, James Moody, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Matthew Hale, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

ANSWP leader Bill White giving a Nazi salute.ANSWP leader Bill White giving a Nazi salute. [Source: SPLC / Roanoke Times]Bill White, the leader of the American National Socialist Workers Party (ANSWP), is convicted in Roanoke, Virginia, of issuing death threats to several people, including Citibank employee Jennifer Petsche, a university administrator, and a human rights lawyer, and of intimidating tenants in Virginia Beach who had filed a lawsuit against their landlord. A judge will dismiss the charge of threatening the lawyer, but will uphold the other convictions. On March 22, 2007, White left a voicemail message for Petsche on her home phone informing her of his identity and saying that he had sent her an email concerning a credit card dispute he was having with Citibank. The email contained her current and former address, including the location of her parents’ home, and compared her to Chicago judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, whose husband and mother were murdered (see February 28, 2005) after a neo-Nazi had posted Lefkow’s home address on a Web site. “I must admit I have run out of patience with you and your smug attitude,” White wrote. “I hope the fact that I’ve obviously paid someone to find you conveys the seriousness with which I take your current attitude.” Petsche informed authorities and White was placed under surveillance. White was arrested in October 2008; his arrest forced the shutdown of the ANSWP blog and led to the collapse of the entire organization, which in 2008 had 35 chapters in 28 states. Before his trial, White complained that “the federal government has launched a massive effort to ‘decapitate’ white organizations.” During his trial, White was found to have posted personal information on a large number of persons on the ANSWP Web site, in many cases calling for his followers to track them down and attack them. Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism says: “We live in a world where rhetoric is increasingly tilting toward violence, where extremists are becoming adept at going up to the line but not crossing it. The law is struggling to untangle protected hate speech from unprotected violence and threats, which often come in the same package. These trials put hate-mongers on notice: If they target their venom too narrowly, too violently, and too explicitly, they run the risk of crossing from political discourse to prison.” White has used the Internet to harass and threaten people since 1996, when he posted the name and phone number of a woman whom he believed was abusing her teenage daughter. “You should be able to write what you want on the Internet, whether it’s true or not,” he told a reporter at the time. For years, White ran Overthrow.com, a popular neo-Nazi Web site. In September 2007, after six black teenagers beat a white teenager in Jena, Louisiana, he posted five of their addresses and phone numbers under a banner that proclaimed, “Lynch the Jena 6!” He advised his readers to “get in touch and let them know justice is coming.” Local police provided the teens’ families with protection. White has long posted virulently racist material on his Web site, frequently using racial slurs and calling African-Americans “nig-rats” and “vermin.” White did not restrict his rhetoric to blacks; in 2007, he advocated the assassination of George W. Bush, writing that “a well-placed bullet can solve a lot of problems,” and has advised that “we need to start SHOOTING AND KILLING Mexicans as they cross the border.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2010]

Entity Tags: William Alexander (“Bill”) White, American National Socialist Workers Party, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Brian Levin, George W. Bush, Jennifer Petsche

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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