BOISE | Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Lucoff walked out of federal court on Friday, after a jury found Beau Hansen and Jonathan Henery not guilty of a hate crime for beating a black man at the Torch 2 club in Boise back on Oct. 20, 2013.
Despite the decision going against him and fellow prosecutor Ali Ahmad, a civil rights attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., Lucoff said he had no regrets bringing the case.
“We thought it was a proper case to bring,” Lucoff said.
On the other side, defense attorney Thomas Dominick, who represented Henery, 29, said the federal case should have never been brought against the two white men from Boise. Derrick Lewis, now 46, ended up getting beat in a simple barroom fight and wasn’t targeted because he was black, Dominick and other defense attorneys 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.”
Richard Rubin, the head federal public defender in Idaho, said he believes the case was brought to federal court because a conviction would have brought a sentence of up to 10 years, longer than in a state case.
“They wanted to get a federal hook into Beau and Jonathan,” Rubin said. “They were seen as troublemakers and they wanted to send them away for a long time.”
Because of allegations that Hansen and Henery yelled racial slurs at Lewis — which they denied — the FBI was called in early to help investigate the fight. Following discussions between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, Ada County prosecutors and Boise police investigators, the decision was made to bring the case before a federal grand jury, which brought an indictment in May 2014.
Following seven days of testimony, the all-white jury of seven women and five men spent five hours over two days deliberating. They reached a unanimous decision Friday morning.
In court, Henery slowly pumped his right fist twice after the court clerk read the jury verdict form announcing that he was found not guilty.
Hansen, who was accused of instigating the fight that left Lewis with serious injuries to his eyes, looked straight ahead as the verdict in his case was announced.
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“Oh, thank God,” he said quietly as his face broke into a grin.
Moments later, Henery leaned into a court microphone and said “Thank you guys,” while looking across the courtroom at the jury of seven women and five men.
As the jurors filed out through a door leading to a private area of the courtroom, Hansen mouthed “Thank you” to them.
Lewis walked into the Torch 2 about an hour after midnight on the morning of the attack. A regular who comes to the club on Vista Avenue nearly every day, Lewis came to retrieve a piece to his cell phone headset that he believed he had left there earlier in the day.
Prosecutors claimed Hansen approached Lewis and told him he wasn’t welcome in the club and needed to leave. Hansen denied the allegation and said he greeted Lewis the same as he had many other club patrons that night.
Lewis testified that Hansen hit him first, while Hansen said Lewis pushed him. Henery joined the fracas after saying it looked like Lewis and a man later identified as a club bouncer were ganging up on his friend.
Witnesses, including several club employees, said they heard Hansen and Henery yelling racial slurs at Lewis. The defendants denied those accusations and the defense questioned whether the employees made up their stories because of Lewis’ status as a club regular and someone they liked.
“I think the trial showed we were right all along,” Rubin said.
Rubin said taking the witness stand benefited both Hansen and Henery.
“It made our clients more human to the jury. I think the jurors liked our clients,” despite their long criminal records, Rubin said.