FORT WORTH (CN) - It took a federal jury just one hour of deliberation to convict a Texas man of hiring a hit man to try to murder the federal judge presiding over his tax-evasion case.
Phillip Monroe Ballard, 72, of Fort Worth, was convicted Wednesday of attempted murder-for-hire, after a two-day trial. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
While awaiting trial for tax evasion, Ballard approached a fellow inmate in September 2012, according to the criminal complaint .
Ballard said he believed U.S. District Judge John McBryde would sentence him to more than 20 years in prison; he wanted the judge killed so the case would be transferred to another judge.
The informant said 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-informant told Ballard 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 October 2012. "Ballard told him that he would pay him $100,000 in cash after the judge is dead."
Ballard told the inmate to station the assassin shooter in the Burnett Plaza Building, across from the Eldon B. Mahon U.S. Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth, according to the criminal complaint. He even provided a contingency plan, telling the inmate to have a bomb planted in the judge's vehicle.
About 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.
At trial, Ballard's attorney claimed his client never had actual intent to kill McBryde.
Prosecutors said the inmate-informant reported the plot before any harm came to the judge.
Ballard faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine at his March 2014 sentencing.
The "sovereign citizen" movement is a loose network of tax evaders.Follow @davejourno
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