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Shock jock released from prison, to finish sentence at halfway house

By Peter J. Sampson, The Record (Hackensack N.J.) –

HACKENSACK, N.J. — Harold C. “Hal” Turner, the Internet radio shock jock and former FBI informant convicted of threatening federal judges, was released from an Indiana prison on Monday to finish his sentence at a halfway house in New Jersey.

Turner, 50, of North Bergen, N.J., left the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind., said a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in Washington.

He said he would not reveal where Turner was going, or any other details about the transfer, until after he arrives at the designated facility.

Turner is to report to a halfway house in Newark on Tuesday, according to his attorney, Ronald G. Russo.

Turner served more than a year in Terre Haute’s highly restrictive Communications Management Unit, one of two experimental units in the federal prison system designed to closely monitor convicted terrorists and other extremists. He is scheduled to be formally freed on Oct. 6.

The once-incendiary shock jock and blogger was sentenced to 33 months in prison in December 2010 after he was found guilty at a third trial of threatening to assault and murder three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago, with the intent to intimidate or retaliate against them. Turner’s first two trials ended in hung juries.

Turner’s tarring of the judges in a June 2009 blog post as “traitors to the Constitution” who “deserved to die” for upholding local gun bans was nothing more than scathing commentary protected under the First Amendment, he and his lawyers have argued.

A federal appeals court in Manhattan is expected to rule in the coming months on his challenge to the conviction.

As a talk-show host, Turner gained notoriety for hate-filled rants and racist commentary that endeared him to a largely white-supremacist audience. He was recruited as a confidential source in 2003 by the FBI, which viewed him as a valuable asset in combating domestic terrorism because of his access to leading figures within violent fringe groups. The FBI terminated him as a paid informant in 2007, citing his violent rhetoric and serious control issues.

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