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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Inmate Hired Out Judge’s Murder, Feds Say

FORT WORTH (CN) - A man awaiting trial on alleged tax evasion offered a fellow inmate $100,000 in cash to kill a federal judge, the government says.

Phillip Monroe Ballard, 71, currently an inmate at FCI Fort Worth, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cureton in a preliminary hearing Monday regarding charges that he solicited the murder for hire of U.S. District Judge John McBryde.

Ballard's tax trial was set to begin Monday, but a criminal complaint was filed under seal against him on Thursday and McBryde recused himself on Friday.

Prosecutors say that Ballard approached a fellow inmate in September, told him he believed McBryde would sentence him to over 20 years in prison and told him he wanted the judge killed so the case would be transferred to another judge.

A confidential source said that, on Sept. 12, Ballard "began talking about his belief in being a sovereign citizen," and that "as a sovereign citizen, he is immune from all laws of the United States."

The inmate then allegedly engaged Ballard, telling him he knew someone outside of prison would perform the murder.

"Ballard continued to advise the other inmate that he wanted Judge McBryde killed and provided him with detailed instructions, such as how it could be done with a high-powered rifle and scope," prosecutors said in a statement. "Ballard told him that he would pay him $100,000 in cash after the judge is dead."

A sister of Ballard's would make the payment, Ballard allegedly said.

Ballard advised the inmate to position the shooter in Burnett Plaza Building, directly across from the Eldon B. Mahon U.S. Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth, according to the criminal complaint.

He even provided a contingency plan, allegedly telling the inmate to have a bomb planted in the judge's vehicle. Approximately two weeks later, the inmate gave Ballard a handwritten letter from an undercover agent posing as the contract killer, which included contact information and notice that the "work" would be completed upon receipt of $5,000.

"Ballard called the undercover agent four times on September 26, 2012, and the following day, Ballard directed that the $5,000 payment be sent to the address provided by the undercover agent," prosecutors said.

He faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

The tax charges, which are still pending, allege that Ballard filed tax returns on behalf of a client, whom he also helped to create a "sham church."

Ballard's record also reportedly includes a 1987 felony conviction for forcible rescue of seized property. The Dallas Morning News says those charges stemmed from Ballard's attempt to evade a federal tax lien by gifting his Mercedes to a friend.

The car was never found after Ballard drove off with it during an attempted seizure by the government, the Morning News reports.

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