Avowed white supremacist Matthew Hale was sentenced to 40 years in prison Wednesday for trying to have a federal judge killed - the same judge whose husband and mother were murdered five weeks ago by a deranged man with no connection to Hale.
Hale, the 33-year-old leader of a group that preaches racial holy war, was sentenced after a rambling, two-hour speech in which he claimed he was the victim and even recited part of "The Star Spangled Banner." He showed no emotion and sat staring at the defense table as the sentence was handed down.
Prosecutors argued for the maximum sentence, saying Hale's crime amounted to an act of terrorism, and the judge agreed.
"Mr. Hale is not concerned about taking someone's life, but rather how to do it without getting caught," U.S. District Judge James Moody said in imposing the sentence. "I consider Mr. Hale to be extremely dangerous and the offense for which he was convicted to be extremely egregious."
Hale was convicted in April 2004 of soliciting an undercover FBI informant to murder U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow of Chicago in retaliation for her ruling against him in a trademark dispute.
Prosecutors said Hale was furious that Lefkow ordered him to stop using the World Church of the Creator name for his group. Lefkow said the name was trademarked by an Oregon-based church group.
The case took on a higher profile after Lefkow's husband and elderly, frail mother were shot and killed in the Lefkow home in late February.
Early suspicion fell on Hale followers, but days later a Chicago man disgruntled over a ruling in his medical malpractice lawsuit fatally shot himself in Wisconsin and confessed to the slayings in a note.
Hale acted as his own attorney during the sentencing, as he had for much of the trial. He compared himself to Lefkow, saying they were both victims.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said afterward that Hale was wrong to think he was morally justified and could get away it by using someone else to carry out violence.
"I put no stock in his claims, the crocodile tears, that he didn't do anything wrong," Fitzgerald said.
In his rambling, arm-waving speech to the court, Hale brought up the murders, despite Moody's efforts to stop him. He compared the FBI to the Gestapo, claimed the news media smeared him, said he had been poorly represented by his former lawyer and ended by reciting the last lines of the national anthem.
He also said he considered Lefkow and himself to be "on the same side against these liars."
"Before you does stand a man who not only is innocent, not only is demonstrably innocent, but who refused to join a plot against Judge Lefkow's life," Hale said.
At one point, he turned to prosecutors and courtroom audience and begged them: "Somebody tell her that it's a lie, somebody tell this poor woman."
A court officials said Lefkow stayed away from the building Wednesday to avoid the hearing.
Hale's parents and brother sat together in court during the hearing.
"I think it's absolutely horrible," Hale's mother, Evelyn Hutcheson, said. "Matt's the only one in there telling the ... truth."