(CN) - An Internet pundit who threatened "militant homosexual legislators" for taking aim at the Catholic church can try transferring false-arrest claims, a federal judge ruled.
On June 2, 2009, Internet radio show host and blogger Harold "Hal" Turner, published a news story from his New Jersey home after learning that Connecticut legislators Michael Lawlor and Andrew MacDonald had introduced legislation to bar Catholic officials from controlling church money.
The bill came after a Connecticut pastor had been convicted of fraud, but critics called it a thinly veiled attempt by the Democratic lawmakers to punish the church for opposing gay marriage legislation.
Turner's news story described how one Catholic protestor had been arrested after calling MacDonald's office with the message that "there would be hell to pay" for messing with the church.
Turner paired this story with a commentary that lamented "a sinister pattern of misuse of government power by militant homosexual legislators to retaliate against political opposition to their sodomite political agenda."
The commentary encouraged Catholics to "take up arms and put down this tyranny by force." It also included a teaser for Turner's next radio show, saying he would release the home addresses of Lawlor, MacDonald and Thomas Jones, who worked in the office investigating the church at the time.
"After all, if they are so proud of what they're doing they shouldn't mind if everyone knows where they live," Turner had said. He further commented that "it is our intention to foment direct action against these individuals personally."
"These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die," Turner had said.
When state Capitol Police Cpl. Timothy Boyle telephoned to investigate the possible threat, Turner said that he had no intention of coming to Connecticut or hurting anyone. He said he hoped no one would go "off the deep end" and do "something terrible."
Boyle then faxed the North Bergen Police Department an arrest warrant for inciting injury to persons or property, and Turner surrendered the next day. He was ultimately freed on $25,000 bail and ordered to appear in Connecticut within 72 hours. While confined at Hartford Correctional Center during the state trial, Turner got into a fight with another inmate.
Later that month, Turner was arrested on criminal charges of threatening to murder three federal appeals court judges for dismissing a National Rifle Association challenge to a Chicago handgun ban. After a federal judge refused to release Turner on a $200,000 bond, the case endured two mistrials before a jury finally convicted him in August 2010. Turner was released from custody in October 2012.
A month later, Turner filed a federal complaint against Lawlor; MacDonald; Jones; Boyle; David Bednarz, a Democratic legislative spokesman who alerted authorities to the blog posts; and assistant state attorneys Dennis O'Connor and Thomas Garcia.
Turner claimed that he was deprived of bail for days and forced to endure miserable conditions at Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny, N.J. He also sought money damages for false arrest and imprisonment, tortious interference, and numerous violations of his constitutional rights.
U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler concluded last week that the District of New Jersey lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendants.
"Plaintiff has only alleged that one defendant, Boyle, had any contact with New Jersey," Chesler wrote. "Therefore this court has no general jurisdiction over defendants O'Connor, Garcia, Bednarz, Lawlor, MacDonald, and Jones. Plaintiff also cannot establish general jurisdiction over Boyle. According to the complaint and its supporting affidavit, Boyle contacted the plaintiff and the NBPD and also swore out a fraudulent 'fugitive-from-justice warrant' for plaintiff's arrest. Boyle's affidavit states that he did not regularly conduct business in New Jersey; did not maintain an office, residence, postal address, or telephone listing in New Jersey; did not own property in New Jersey; and did not anticipate at any time being called into court in New Jersey."
The judge advocated transfer to the District of Connecticut.
"Although plaintiff initially turned himself over to police and was confined for a period of five days in New Jersey, the bulk of the harm suffered from Boyle's allegedly tortious conduct took place in Connecticut - that is where plaintiff was charged, forced to appear for numerous status conferences, jailed, tried, and bloodied in a fight with a fellow inmate," the ruling states.
If Turner does not consent to the transfer by May 8, the case will be dismissed without prejudice, according to the ruling.