It has been quite a while since I have given Matt Hale any thought.
But the native of East Peoria, Ill., is back in the news because of his violin, the instrument he tried to use many decades ago to try to give himself a sophisticated image – or at least sophistication compared to the usual ranks of white supremacist activists trying to peddle their image of what our society ought to be like.
FOR THOSE OF you who have forgotten, or are too young to remember, Hale was a product of the 1990s who managed to get himself into the national news because he was a law school graduate who was denied the chance to get a law license in Illinois.
The state officials who handle such licensing matters for the legal profession ruled that Hale’s racist views, which he didn’t try to conceal., were inconsistent with someone who was an officer of the court and supposed to uphold the law.
It was one of those freak stories. Hale, who said he wanted to be a lawyer who represented other white supremacists when they ran afoul of the law, was kind of a sad joke. But he took the attention to mean that he had something significant to say to society at large.
He kept pushing his image into the public eye until he eventually got caught up with what federal prosecutors said were his attempts to try to arrange the murder of a U.S. district judge in Chicago. He was found guilty and got a 40-year prison sentence, which he is still serving at a closed-security facility in Colorado.
MEANING HE SPENDS the bulk of the day locked in his cell, and has only minimal contact with other people.
I suspect the isolation is for his own good. I could envision many other inmates thinking they could bolster their jailhouse ‘cred’ by trying to kill him.
But being locked away from other people is bound to do something to the mentality of just about anybody who has to endure such treatment. Hale claims his treatment in prison violates his civil rights.
Which has led him to file a lawsuit against the federal government seeking $19 million in compensation for the harm being done to him. Or so he claims!
ALTHOUGH THE CHICAGO Tribune reported Tuesday how Hale offered to drop his lawsuit in exchange for one personal concession. He wants his violin back. He wants to be able to play it while in his cell.
There could be a cell block in Colorado where inmates would have to endure his rusty playing (who knows how long it has been since he has held an instrument?).
Then again, maybe not.
For the newspaper reported that federal officials rejected his request. They’re also not offering up anything in the way of explanation as to why he can’t have a violin.
IS IT POSSIBLE that the bow could be construed as a weapon? Or converted into something that could cause harm? It wouldn’t shock me to learn that federal officials try to make that claim. Then again, prison inmates are people with a lot of free time that they can use to concoct assorted schemes.
Imaginations run wild can cause great harm if not closely watched enough.
Although that violin reminds me of the old days when Hale first cropped onto the public scene. I still recall every television reporter who felt compelled to interview Hale had to include two images in particular – the toilet bowl in Hale’s father’s home that had a Star of David inside it, and the sight of Hale playing his violin.
Maybe Hale thinks if he gets his violin back, he can somehow turn back the clock when he was a young man with potential for a future – instead of just another inmate who has more than two more decades of time to serve before he can dream of freedom!