(MCT) — CHICAGO — Two years after being convicted of soliciting violence against a federal jury foreman, white supremacist William White was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison Wednesday by a federal judge, as his lawyers, family and the assistant U.S. attorneys who prosecuted him looked on.
But absent from the hearing was the man White had targeted for violence, Mark Hoffman. Though he testified at White’s 2011 trial and was in the courtroom to hear the guilty verdict returned — breaking into a wide smile and fighting tears — Hoffmann could not bring himself to return to the U.S. Dirksen Courthouse Wednesday.
“(Hoffman) originally planned to testify at the defendant’s sentencing,” prosecutors alerted the court in a recent filing. “However (he) recently informed the government that this case has taken such a toll on him that he believes that, in the interest of his mental health and well-being, he cannot endure the thought of further contact with the defendant and this case.”
Prosecutors cited this kind of chilling effect on the court system in asking for White to serve a little more than five years in prison for posting personal information about Hoffman on his website, overthrow.com, and naming Hoffman as the “gay Jewish anti-racist” juror who had helped convict Matthew Hale, a downstate white supremacist, for soliciting the murder of a Chicago federal judge who ruled against him in a trademark infringement case. White also splashed personal details about Hoffman — who is not Jewish — on the website, including his color photo, home address, phone numbers and even his cat’s name.
Assistant U.S Attorney Michael Ferrara told U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, a federal judge from Milwaukee who oversaw the trial because of potential conflicts here, that there was a compelling need to protect federal jurors from such threats. If not, the “federal jury system would collapse,” he said.
White’s attorney, Nishay Sanan, argued, as he did at trial, that though White’s opinions were offensive, he only shared them and never directly asked anyone to hurt Hoffman. Sanan told the judge that White’s post on the website was “not a true threat” and deserved protection by the First Amendment.
Prosecutors have argued, however, that White’s postings needed to be considered in context of his online links to other white supremacists and to his writings and postings, which included violent language about other race-related crimes and a call for the “assassination” of anyone involved in the Hale trial.
Adelman has twice before sided with White’s defense. He dismissed the indictment against White, only to have that also reversed by the appellate court. He then reversed the jury verdict, agreeing that White’s postings were protected speech. A federal appeals court restored the verdict, leading to Wednesday’s sentencing.
At the sentencing Adelman spoke of promoting respect for the law and also protecting the public — in this case, jurors.
“No doubt the experience was extremely frightening for the juror,” Adelman said.
Before the sentencing, White, 35, of Roanoke, Va., apologized to the judge for “communicating in a way that was subject to misunderstanding,” but stopped short of saying his actions were hateful or racist.
White told Adelman he had “abandoned political activity” and recently lost his marriage. Upon his eventual release, White said he planned to “live quietly, write, raise my daughter and obey the law.”
White has about 1 1/2 months left to serve on an unrelated federal conviction in Roanoke, Va. for making threats to other victims and intimidating other witnesses before he begins serving this sentence. The 1 1/2 months will run concurrently.