William A. White ("Bill White") and I don't agree on a whole heck of a lot, but I respect his intelligence and clarity. Sadly, we won't have him as part of the discussion anymore because some people were upset by his words:
Angry with the way Citibank was handling his account, William A. White dug up a bank employee's home address, her telephone number and the name of her husband.
He then sent the information to Jennifer Petsche in an e-mail, threatening to share it with other dissatisfied customers.
"Consider this," White wrote. "As I'm sure, being in the collection business and having the attitude about it that you do, that you often make people upset. Lord knows that drawing too much publicity and making people upset is what did in Joan Lefkow."
But because White sought personal gain from Petsche -- he wanted to improve his credit score by getting her to clear up his disputed credit card debt -- prosecutors have charged him with threatening her with the intent to extort.
Looks like a loophole: she was scared, he stood to gain -- by not getting reamed by a bill collector. Very dodgy logic here.
White, the self-proclaimed commander of the American National Socialist Workers Party, was convicted of three counts of communicating threats in interstate commerce and one count of witness intimidation, the U.S. Justice Department said in a release.
White, who was acquitted on three other counts, faces a maximum of 25 years in prison.
The verdict, however, was not a total repudiation of White's assertion that the First Amendment should protect his incendiary speech. Of seven counts against White, the federal jury acquitted him of three.
White, who will be sentenced later, could face up to 35 years in prison.
At least for now, the convictions will silence a man called "possibly the loudest and most obnoxious neo-Nazi leader in America " by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups
In closing arguments to the jury, Justice Department attorney John Richmond spent more than an hour recounting the personal attacks and death wishes that White leveled against a bank employee from Missouri, a nationally syndicated columnist from Maryland, a university administrator from Delaware, a small-town mayor from New Jersey, a human rights lawyer from Canada and two tenants of an apartment complex in Virginia Beach.
White has been in jail almost continuously since his arrest in October 2008.
The convictions marked a huge setback for an online agitator who up until now has managed to straddle the fine line between free speech and illegal threats. Earlier this year, a judge in Chicago dismissed a similar charge against White on free speech grounds.
This is bad news indeed. While White may have stepped over the line, time in jail for speech is not a good precedent -- especially since loopholes have had to be employed.