A white supremacist solicited violence against a juror by revealing his personal details online, an appellate court in Chicago ruled Friday, overturning a lower court's decision that tossed the neo-Nazi's conviction on the grounds that his posts were protected by the First Amendment.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the posts by William White -- who gained notoriety for threatening then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in online postings in 2008 -- weren't subject to the shield that the U.S. Constitution extends to most speech.
"White rightfully emphasizes that the First Amendment protects even speech that is loathsome," the three-judge panel in Chicago said in its unanimous, 30-page ruling. "But criminal solicitations are simply not protected by the First Amendment."
The judges also said White shouldn't get a new trial and should proceed to sentencing. A sentencing date will be set later.
In early 2011, the Roanoke, Va., man was convicted of one count of solicitation for publishing a juror's name, photograph, home address, phone numbers and sexual orientation on his website in 2008. The juror he singled out had been the foreman of a jury that convicted another white supremacist, Matthew Hale, of soliciting the murder of a federal judge.
Later that year, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman reversed the conviction, writing that "the government failed to present sufficient evidence" that the posts somehow solicited harm to the White's target. "I further find the posts protected by the First Amendment."
The appeals court reinstated the original conviction in a ruling that referred several times to White's ominous postings suggesting an assassination attempt against Obama a month before the last presidential election. White was never charged in relation to those comments.
The lower court said in its decision that the threats against the juror weren't explicit enough to cross the line into unprotected speech. But the appeals court said Friday that White's followers would have understood he wanted the juror to be harmed, just as they would have understood the threat against Obama to be serious.
"Readers of (White's website) were not casual Web browsers," the ruling says, "but extremists molded into a community by the Internet -- loyal and avid readers who, whether or not they remember every specific solicitation to assassination, knew that (the website) identified hateful enemies who should be assassinated."
The posting about Obama included a photograph of him with swastika-shaped crosshairs superimposed over his face and the words, "White people must deny (him) the presidency ... by any means necessary."
White, the self-styled leader of the American National Socialist Workers Party, is already behind bars stemming from a separate conviction of making threats and intimidation. In that case, he was accused of writing a letter addressed to the young children of an apartment resident who was suing her landlord for discrimination.
White's website, www.overthrow.com, regularly attacked nonwhites, Jews and homosexuals and expressed approval for acts of violence. White no longer has control of postings to that website.
White's attorney said the appellate judges reinstated his client's conviction out of "hatred" of White's views rather than for sound legal reasons.
Attorney Nishay Sanan said he'd like to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court but White will make that decision.