December 2, 2016 SANTA ANA, Calif. – John Arthur Walthall was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for soliciting the murders and assaults of a federal judge, two federal prosecutors and two federal agents, all of whom were involved in his prior conviction for fraud. The 20-year sentence will run consecutively to the prison term he received in the fraud case.
Walthall, who formerly resided in Laguna Beach, was convicted by a federal jury in July following a oneweek trial before U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney. A federal jury deliberated approximately two hours and found Walthall guilty of soliciting the murders and assaults of U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ivy Wang and Mark Takla, and FBI Agents Brad Howard and Frank Bernal, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 373.
At trial, the government presented evidence that Walthall was charged in 2009 with four counts of wire fraud and one count of failure to appear after he convinced an Orange County elderly couple to invest $5.5 2 million in a scheme where he promised to extract gold from abandoned mines. While pending trial, Walthall fled and was arrested in July 2011 in Nevada with a .45 caliber pistol, 3 barrel extenders, 3 magazines, a fake silencer and the book titled, “How to Be Invisible.”
Walthall was later convicted and in April 2012 was sentenced to 168 months in prison. In March 2014, the FBI was contacted by family members of two inmates at FCI Lompoc with information that Walthall had approached them and asked for their assistance in kidnapping and murdering Guilford, Wang, Takla, Howard, Bernal and others including his former defense attorney. Walthall’s plan included kidnapping Judge Guilford, forcing him to exonerate Walthall, cutting one of his eyes out and killing him by placing him in a wood chipper.
Agents were able to record one of those inmates as well as an undercover agent meeting with Walthall where he repeated his plans. Agents learned that Walthall had been planning this for three years and provided step-by-step instructions on how he wanted his plans carried out. Agents also learned that Walthall had solicited another inmate in Santa Ana Jail following his conviction in 2011. At trial, Walthall claimed he was insane and suffered from paranoid schizophrenia or a delusional disorder.
The United States relied upon a mental health expert witness as well as Bureau of Prisons psychologists that had assessed Walthall throughout the years and found no signs that he suffered from these diseases. “Mr. Walthall became an armed fugitive after being charged with defrauding an elderly couple of millions, and when caught and convicted, proceeded with a plot from prison to murder the officials who held him accountable,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
“I’m hopeful that the additional prison sentence handed down today will end Mr. Walthall’s ability to victimize seniors and law enforcement officials in the future.”
This case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California because the Central District of California was recused. DEFENDANT Case Number: 14CR0192-CJC John
Arthur Walthall Age: 60 SUMMARY OF CHARGES Solicitation to Commit a Crime of Violence, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 373.
Maximum penalty: 20 years AGENCIES Federal Bureau of Investigation