Second Murder Plot Against SoCal Federal Judge Ends with Conviction


Because Orange County-based U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford has ordered extremely violent gangsters to prison without receiving death threats, it’s bizarre that two white collar criminals, who specialize in finance, have been convicted of orchestrating assassination plots against him in the last three years.

It took a Fresno jury just six minutes this month to find federal inmate Craig M. Shults guilty in the latest plan, according to Daily Journal reporter Meghann Cuniff.

In 2016, a jury in Santa Ana convicted John Arthur Walthall, another defendant sentenced by Guilford, for trying to arrange the kidnapping and wood-chipper murders of the judge as well as two federal prosecutors and several FBI special agents who’d investigated his case.

Both Shults and Walthall, violators of wire fraud laws, separately hatched their plans in prison and found themselves betrayed by government informants who’d been solicited to help carry out the murders in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

Walthall—who repeated blurted out wild, angry statements during his trial conducted inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse under the guidance of U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney—received a 20-year sentence.

Shults faces a maximum six-year term when he’s sentenced in March because he was convicted of a lesser crime of retaliating against a federal judge by threat.

During Shults’ trial, Guilford testified that he showed an OC Weekly cover story about Walthall to FBI agents and U.S. Marshal’s officers when they alerted him to Shults’ threat in mid-June.

Fellow Lompoc federal prison inmate Pavel Valkovich testified that Shult appeared extremely bitter about his treatment in Guilford’s courtroom, informed him that he knew of the judge’s habit of playing basketball with friends on Thursdays, and wanted him eliminated.

“[Shults] said, ‘If you kill the judge and the prosecutor, I will give you a $100,000 per head, and you can pay your people [the actual killers] whatever you want and keep the spread,’” Valkovich testified. “He said [he’d pay] 10 percent down . . . I told him it was a terrible idea. His reaction was angry, telling me that, ‘It’s not your place to make a judgment call. I know what I’m doing. I’m offering you a lot of money. I know what you can do to get it done.’”

President George W. Bush gave Guilford his lifetime appointment to the federal bench in 2006. Three years later, he presided over the trial of then-Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona, who was convicted of attempting to sabotage a grand jury probe and sentenced to 66 months in prison. The judge won widespread admiration for firmly speaking out against public corruption.

CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; earned six dozen other reporting awards; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; featured in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.

One Reply to “Second Murder Plot Against SoCal Federal Judge Ends with Conviction”

  1. R. Scott-

    Glad you’re still there- and I greatly miss Gustavo Arellano. It does always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone. (She’s right, as always)

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