On February 13, 2015, a federal court jury found that Jon Henery was not guilty of a hate crime attack at the Torch 2 club located in Boise. Although witnesses said that Henery and his co-defendant repeatedly uttered racial slurs at the alleged victim, the jury, after a two week trial, concluded that a hate crime did not occur. This was the first hate crime case ever prosecuted by the federal government in Idaho. Defense attorney Thomas Dominick represented Henery and said after the case that the federal case should not have been brought. “Lewis was beaten in a bar fight,” he said. “We’re grateful the jury was able to see through the mud thrown in this case.” Dominick said “It should have been a state (battery) case.”
At trial, Henery’s attorney produced evidence that Henery was not a racist and did not take action until he believed that his co-defendant and friend was out numbered two to one and needed his defense. Only then did Henery become involved in the altercation.
The federal government decided to prosecute Henery under the federal hate crime statute because the sentence that could have been imposed was up to 10 years, longer than a state case. Henery and his co-defendant were seen as trouble makers and the federal government wanted to send them away for a long time.
The allegations were investigated by the FBI, the local US Attorney’s Office, Ada County Prosecutors, Boise Police, and the gang unit.
An issue raised by defense counsel for Henery early on was the constitutionality of the Federal Hate Crimes Statute. The argument was made that the federal law was unconstitutional in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill rejected this argument and denied the motion to dismiss saying that case law upheld the constitutionality of the statute. The Thirteenth Amendment prohibits slavery or involuntary servitude. Dominick argued that states should prosecute these types of cases, not the federal government.