March 17, 2014

Fort Worth man sentenced to 20 years for trying to hire hit man to kill judge

The 72-year-old man was willing to pay $100,000 to have a Fort Worth federal judge shot to death, federal agents said.

A Fort Worth man convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill a federal judge was sentenced Monday to 20 years in federal prison.

Phillip Monroe Ballard, 72, tried to hire the hit man to kill U.S. District Judge John McBryde in 2012 for $100,000. At the time, Ballard faced charges of filing false tax returns and corrupt interference with Internal Revenue Service laws, and feared that McBryde would hand down a harsh sentence, federal agents said.

Ballard had claimed to be a sovereign citizen immune from U.S. laws.

He was sent to prison Monday by U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter, who presided over Ballard’s trial in December 2013 for solicitation to commit murder.

A federal jury found Ballard guilty after a two-day trial and about an hour of deliberation. Ballard’s defense attorney said his client never actually intended to kill a judge.

Walter sentenced Ballard on Monday in a Dallas federal courtroom and gave him the maximum sentence.

The tax charges are still pending.

The murder-for-hire plot was thwarted by a federal inmate and an FBI agent posing as the hit man, federal officials said.

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

Federal agents were tipped off to the plot by an inmate Sept. 12, 2012.

The inmate told federal authorities that he was in a day room with Ballard, who said he wanted McBryde killed and would pay $100,000, according to the complaint. In an effort to get Ballard to reveal more about his plan, the inmate told Ballard he knew someone who could do it, federal agents said in the complaint.

That day, Ballard asked the inmate to be his cellmate 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 Sept. 17, 2012. He told them that Ballard had handed him a handwritten map of the federal courthouse and the Burnett Plaza Building.

On Sept. 26, 2012, the inmate gave Ballard a handwritten letter drafted by an FBI agent posing as the killer, the complaint states. The letter, which included how to contact the hit man, said the work would be completed on 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 to his sister directing her to send the $5,000 to an Oklahoma address that the undercover agent provided.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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