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Inmate Convicted For Asking Pals To Put Judge In A Wood Chipper

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The Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau put up this, uh, installation at their offices. (Photo by Fargo-Moorhead CVB via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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The Coen Brothers have established themselves as being at the forefront of American cinema. But, in spite of all their accomplishments, history may best remember them for one scene in 1996's Fargo. In said scene, Steve Buscemi's dismembered corpse is being disposed of in a wood chipper, with one foot sticking out of the churning machine.

Well, it looks like a California inmate had seen Fargo one too many times. As reported by the L.A. Times, 60-year-old John Walthall was convicted Monday of conspiring from behind bars to kidnap and kill a federal judge, two prosecutors and two FBI agents.

Walthall, a former Laguna Beach resident, had already been sentenced to 14 years in a fraud case. In 2012 he was found guilty for having conned $5.5 million from an elderly couple. According to a court testimony, Walthall had convinced the Orange County couple to invest millions into a scheme in which gold would be procured from abandoned mines.

Instead of picking up a pickaxe, however, Walthall took the money and paid for his son's film school tuition, a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, and other weird stuff. He also put a lot of the money into bogus bank accounts. He was caught, eventually, and a jury found him guilty of four counts of wire fraud and one count of failure to appear in court.

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Walthall was pretty mad about it all, apparently. According to prosecutors, while in prison Walthall tried to convince a couple of his fellow inmates to help him abduct and murder the people who'd put him behind bars. The plans were fairly detailed—Walthall had wanted U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford, the judge who'd sentenced him, to be tortured, killed, and put in a wood chipper.

Things didn't go as planed: the inmates ratted him out, and Walthall at one point divulged his plans to an undercover agent. According to the agent, Walthall told him that the plan to kill Guilford and others was three years in the making, according to City News Service. "Operation Fargo 2" (that's what I'm calling it) went kaputt.

In December of 2014 he was indicted for soliciting the murders. In court, Walthall was very vocal and contentious. At his 2012 sentencing he argued with the judge and tried to fire his lawyer, prompting his son to stand up and say, "You have to stop."

Walthall's attorney made an interesting move in the case; he painted his defendant as a kind of crackpot who liked making up conspiracy theories, meaning, hey, he wasn't really serious about putting a judge through a wood chipper. The attorney also painted the other inmates as being a-hole bullies who were just having fun with Walthall; the defense said that the inmates had conspired to egg Walthall along, get details about his supposed plan, relay those plans to authorities, then get a break on their prison terms for being totally good guys.

Well! That gambit didn't work out so good. Walthall was found guilty, and now he's waiting to be sentenced on October 11.

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Is Walthall thinking up of new Coen-inspired murders now? Perhaps he's thinking about using a cattle stun gun à la No Country For Old Men?