HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – A blogger who urged readers to “take up arms” against Connecticut officials is suing state government leaders for $50 million after being acquitted of threatening and inciting violence.
Harold “Hal” Turner, of North Bergen, N.J., filed the lawsuit in federal court in Newark, N.J., on Nov. 21 claiming he was falsely arrested, wrongfully imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted. A jury acquitted him last year.
Defendants in the lawsuit referred questions Tuesday to the Connecticut attorney general’s office, which will defend them. A spokeswoman for Attorney General George Jepsen declined to comment and said her office will respond to the allegations in court.
Turner couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday. There is no phone listing in his name.
Turner was arrested after a June 2009 blog posting suggesting Connecticut officials “obey the Constitution or die” and urging readers to “take up arms and put down this tyranny by force.” He added that if authorities tried to stop his cause, “I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down too.”
The posting was in response to legislation debated by state lawmakers that would have given lay people of Roman Catholic churches more control over parish finances. Turner believed the legislation flew in the face of the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state. The bill had been withdrawn three months before his posting.
A state jury in Hartford acquitted Turner in September 2011 after he argued that his free speech rights were being trampled and there was never any violence against state officials.
At the time of his trial, Turner was serving a nearly three-year prison sentence for threatening judges in Illinois. He was released in October.
The defendants in the lawsuit include Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s general counsel, former state Sen. Andrew McDonald and former state Rep. Michael Lawlor, now undersecretary for criminal justice police and planning at the state Office of Policy and Management. McDonald and Lawlor, who were co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee when the church bill was debated, declined to comment.
Other officials named in the lawsuit include Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Garcia, who prosecuted Turner, and state Capitol police officials.
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