Trial begins for Laguna Beach man accused of conspiring to kill judge, prosecutors and FBI agents


A former Laguna Beach resident is being retried this week for an alleged revenge plot to assassinate federal prosecutors, FBI agents and a judge.

John Arthur Walthall, 66,’s conviction in 2016 was overturned by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 after the court found the district court made a ‘structural error’ in failing to inform Walthall of his right to self-representation. During his trial, Walthall alleged that the justice system and his former defense attorney, Timothy Scott, conspired to send him to die in prison.

Walthall allegedly hatched the murder scheme while serving a prison sentence following a 2012 conviction of four counts of wire fraud and one count of failing to appear in court . After a jury found him guilty of those charges, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford.

The plot involved the kidnapping of Guilford in an attempt to force him to exonerate Walthall. Afterwards, Guilford would be tortured and shredded by a wood chipper, according to court documents.

Walthall then allegedly approached two inmates to carry out the plot, which also included the murder of prosecutors and two federal agents involved in his conviction. He allegedly offered up to $1 million per victim, according to court documents.

These inmates then reported Walthall to the FBI.

The trial is being overseen by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney, who handed down an additional 20 years – the maximum sentence – for one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence at the Walthall trial in 2016.

According to a March 14 court filing, defense attorney Charles Brown argues that the two inmates who contacted the FBI to report the plot “actually tricked and manipulated him into receiving time off of their own.” prison terms”.

Walthall was held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.

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