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Witness' Competency in Murder Trial Questioned

April 09, 2004|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Lawyers for a white supremacist accused of soliciting the murder of a federal judge said Thursday a key federal witness might be mentally ill and should undergo a competency hearing before being allowed to testify.

U.S. District Judge James T. Moody said he would wait until early next week to take up the request concerning Jon Fox, a longtime associate of Matthew Hale.

Hale, 32, a white supremacist leader from East Peoria, is charged with obstruction of justice and soliciting the murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow.

Defense attorneys Thomas Anthony Durkin and Patrick W. Blegen filed the motion as Moody questioned potential jurors for Hale's trial, which is expected to take two to three weeks.

By day's end, eight jurors had been selected.

Moody plans to pick four more jurors and four alternates before opening statements, which lawyers expected to begin next week.

Hale, who prosecutors say was furious with Lefkow because she ruled against him in a 2002 trademark dispute, is charged partly on the basis of secretly made tapes of a conversation with an FBI informant.

He is also charged based on statements made by Fox.

The defense lawyers say the FBI informant is the only one on the tapes urging violence, and that Fox has disclosed to the government he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Along with a government memo concerning Fox's mental state, the defense filed a police report Thursday from Minot, N.D., in which an officer said he tried to question Fox about an altercation.

The officer said Fox became "highly agitated" and retreated to the basement of his home, according to the report.

Defense lawyers said lithium had been prescribed for Fox, but there was some indication he might not have been taking his medicine.

Fox was a member of Hale's group, which was formerly known as the World Church of the Creator.

Lefkow ordered the group to stop using that name because it was trademarked by an Oregon-based religious organization that had no ties to Hale and did not share his views.

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