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Christopher Hallett built a business providing online legal advice in custody cases. His main offering was built on a conspiracy theory. But this conspiracy theory ended in murder. This transcript was prepared by a transcription service. This version may not be in its final form and may be updated.

Chris Hallett: Okay, what's going on, everybody. Sure you remember this from the Friday night show. Speaker 3: He's a stocky, middle-aged man. He's kind of a round head, with short gray hair and a gray goatee, sitting there, often in a tie, but he's not in a tie, in his home office. Kate Linebaugh: Hallett's home office is pretty standard. In these videos, he sits at a desk. Behind him, framed certificates line the wall. And it kind of looks like a typical lawyer's office. Actually, a lot of what Chris Hallett does in these videos, looks like what a lawyer does.

Chris Hallett: We have to differentiate, what's the difference between civil versus criminal? Kate Linebaugh: Chris Hallett spends hours talking about the legal system, especially around child custody law. Kate Linebaugh: And over time, he turned these online lectures into a business. One that earned him good money. But Chris Hallett is not a lawyer. He has no formal legal training, and the legal theory he's espousing in his videos, is a conspiracy theory.

One partially based on anti-government views that the FBI has labeled as extremist. Kate Linebaugh: Over time, Chris Hallett built an entire community around his theory, with an audience of thousands of people, some who are steeped in other conspiracy theories, like QAnon. And eventually, those online conspiracy theories jumped off the internet and led to violence in the real world. Welcome to The Journal, our show about money, business, and power. I'm Kate Linebaugh. It's Monday, July 12th. Coming up on the show, the story of Chris Hallett, and how online conspiracy theories sometimes turn deadly.

In recent years, we've seen examples where conspiracy theories that started online spill over into the real world, sometimes ending in violence. Like in in Washington, DC. Speaker 8: When a man opened fire on a DC pizzeria, because he believed Hillary Clinton was running sex ring inside. Speaker 7: The shooter was inspired by racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories on the white supremacist social media site, Gab. Speaker 6: Rioters breaking past the Capitol building's barriers, chanting "Stop the steal", interrupting the Electoral College certification of President Elect Joe Biden. Speaker 5: Five people were killed and nearly law enforcement officers were injured during, and as a result of, the riot.

Kate Linebaugh: Today's story about online conspiracies spilling over into the real world started years ago. It centers around Chris Hallett, and involves family courts and a follower who Hallett tried to help. Here's our colleague, Justin Scheck, who spent months reporting on Chris Hallett, talking to friends and family to understand Hallett's backstory. Just Scheck: He had a Women seeking real sex College Point childhood, as many people do.

He had a lot of instability. He was raised partially by his mother, partially by his grandparents. He ended up training himself to become a car mechanic, and worked in auto parts stores. But he always felt like there was more that he should be accomplishing, more that he should be doing. When he was 19 years old, he Women seeking real sex College Point a 17 year old woman at a roller rink where they used to hang out.

Kate Linebaugh: Chris Hallett married that woman. They had together, but the marriage didn't work out. They split up, and Hallett moved away. But eventually, Hallett decided he wanted custody of his son. And that's when he first started to interact with child custody law, something that would take hold of his life in the coming years.

Hallett spent years trying to get his son back. At one point, he took him without permission, and returned him only after law enforcement came. He got married again, had two more kids, got divorced again, and spent more years fighting over custody and child support. And when he went to court, he lost. Over and over. Just Scheck: He became convinced the system was rigged against him, and his life became defined by these obstacles that he viewed; his lack of education, lack of financial opportunity, and a court system that never gave him what he wanted, and that became the way he defined himself.

His entire life revolved around his victimhood, from what his family and friends told me. And he felt that his lawyers were in cahoots with the court and his ex wife's lawyers to make him lose, to keep taking his money, and continually make him the victim. Kate Linebaugh: So Hallett set out to try to understand why he was losing his child custody cases.

And according to people close to him, he ended up down a rabbit hole. Just Scheck: He started studying what he thought were the foundational documents of American democracy and jurisprudence, The Constitution, but also some obscure British legal manuals, things that have very little, if any, relationship to the way things are done in the court system, and decided that the way things were being done was deeply corrupted of the way things should be.

And he decided that if more people knew this, they would start winning. And so he just started making videos about this. Chris Hallett: Never done this from this thing before. So, just bear with me a little bit.

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You know anybody who you think might benefit from this, by all means, invite them, share whatever. Just Scheck: And he started doing this, and offering legal help to other people who were in a similar situation. Just Scheck: He's really talking about his legal theories, his supposed proofs for how the court system, and the government in general, has been corrupted from what the constitution laid out.

Chris Hallett: The reason that you're hearing this information goes back to the original Continental Congress. Just Scheck: And behind him is often a whiteboard on which she draws these diagrams that he says layout his theory for what's gone wrong with U. And it's a combination of what look like calculus equations, and then he would claim that these flowcharts that had these calculus equations and various things, could show, diagrammatically, where a person's legal case, such as his custody case, had been mishandled by the courts.

And his obsession was with The Emoluments Clause. Kate Linebaugh: The Emoluments Clause. This is the clause that governs how the President, members of Congress, and other office holders, can and cannot be paid. I'm going to try to explain Hallett's theory, and it doesn't make sense because it's a conspiracy theory, but stick with me. So, Chris Hallett developed this theory that lawyers were in violation of The Emoluments Clause, because when Women seeking real sex College Point are admitted to the bar, they get a new title, Esquire, which he said is a title equivalent to royalty.

And because lawyers have this title of royalty, they can't be U. And thus, according to Hallett, can't represent anyone in court. Hallett's theory shares ideas with a larger movement, one typically called the Sovereign Citizens Movement. None of it is true, but of course that didn't stop people from watching Hallett's videos on Facebook.

What drew people to his videos? Just Scheck: Most of them had some custody issue with the. Some of them believed that there was some widespread plan by the government take children, oftentimes stemming from a custody issue they had. Kate Linebaugh: That was what drew in the next important character in today's story, a woman named Neely Petrie-Blanchard. Georgia Wells: So Neely lost custody of her daughter, and that's when her troubles began. Because she became obsessed with trying to find ways to get that daughter back.

Kate Linebaugh: That's our colleague, Georgia Wells. She says Neely, like Chris Hallett, thought the legal system wasn't being fair to her. Georgia spoke to one of Neely's best friends about Neely at that time.

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Speaker That was definitely a pivotal moment. My sister and I talked about that. And I remember around that time, my sister's was like, "What's up with Neely's Facebook posts? They're so weird. Speaker They became more political, you know what I'm saying? She was really into Trump, which isn't that unusual, a lot of people voted for him. But just like child trafficking stuff. She came to visit me and she kept talking all this weird stuff, all these satanic rituals, and Nancy Pelosi has political connections with religious figures, and religious sex.

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And I was like, what on earth is she talking about? She met my next door neighbor at the time, and he was like, everything she said- Because I was so embarrassed that she was even mentioning this mumbo-jumbo, and my neighbor was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.

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So I was like, "Oh, I guess it's a conspiracy theory thing or something. Kate Linebaugh: It was a conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory called QAnon. QAnon is pretty well known by now. The conspiracy incorrectly alleges, essentially, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan worshiping pedophiles.

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