Arlington man charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill federal judge

Posted Monday, Oct. 01, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- An Arlington man who was already in federal custody on accusations of filing false tax returns was charged Monday with trying to hire a hit man to kill a federal judge for $100,000, according to federal authorities.

A federal inmate and a FBI agent posing as the hit man thwarted the plot last week, federal officials said Monday in a news release.

Phillip Monroe Ballard, 71, who was scheduled to go on trial Monday on the tax charges, was charged with soliciting the murder for hire of U.S. District Judge John McBryde.

McBryde could not be reached Monday.

The plan called for the "killer" to position himself within the Burnett Plaza Building, across from the Federal Courthouse in Fort Worth, arm himself with a high-power rifle with a scope and shoot McBryde when he entered the courthouse, according to a federal criminal complaint. If that plan didn't work, Ballard wanted the killer to plant a bomb in the judge's vehicle.

Ballard wanted McBryde killed so the judge would not hear his tax case, according to the complaint. If he was found guilty in the tax case, Ballard believed McBryde would sentence him to a maximum 20 years in prison, federal agents said in the complaint.

Federal agents were tipped off to the plot on Sept. 12 by an inmate.

The inmate told federal authorities that he was in a day room with Ballard, who claimed to be a sovereign citizen and was therefore immune from all laws of the United States.

During the conversation, Ballard said he wanted McBryde killed and would pay $100,000, according to the complaint. The inmate told Ballard he knew someone who could do it in an effort to get Ballard to reveal more about his plan, federal agents said in the complaint.

Later that day, Ballard asked the inmate to be his cell mate and continued to discuss plans to kill McBryde, federal agents said.

Ballard reiterated that he had the money and he would have his sister send it, according to the complaint.

Federal agents met with the inmate on Sept. 17, who told the agents that Ballard had handed him a handwritten map of the Federal Courthouse and the Burnett Plaza Building.

On Sept. 26, the inmate gave Ballard a handwritten letter drafted by an FBI agent posing as the killer, the complaint stated. The letter, which included how to contact the hit man, stated the work would be completed upon receipt of $5,000. Later that day, Ballard called the undercover FBI agent four times and told him that he would be sending the money, according to the complaint.

The next day, Ballard sent an email message to his sister directing her to send the $5,000 to an Oklahoma address that had been provided by the undercover FBI agent.

On Friday, McBryde canceled Ballard's tax trial and recused himself from the case.

If convicted of the federal murder for hire charge, Ballard faces a maximum 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

As of Monday, no one else had been charged in the case.

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763

Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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