Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Court Denies En Banc Rehearing in Bombing Case
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday denied en banc rehearing to a white supremacist convicted of bombing a city building.
In a brief order, the court explained that its panel—Chief Judge Sidney Thomas, Judge John Owens, and visiting Fifth Circuit Senior Judge Fortunato Benavides—had denied rehearing, and no active judge had asked for a vote on Dennis Mahon’s request for rehearing en banc.
Mahon is currently serving a 40-year prison term in the case, in which a District Court jury in Phoenix found him guilty of conspiracy to damage buildings and other real property by means of an explosive and malicious damage of a building by means of an explosive, both charges brought under a federal statute that makes it a crime to damage or destroy a building used in interstate commerce.
The building housed Scottsdale’s Office of Diversity and Dialogue, an agency established for various purposes, including sponsorship of events promoting a diverse culture. On Feb. 26, 2004, the office’s director, Don Logan, opened a box addressed to him, triggering a massive pipe bomb explosion that caused severe trauma to his face requiring numerous surgeries and skin grafts to repair.
Two employees nearby were also injured, including one who took shrapnel to an eye. The bomb shattered windows, blew a hole into a countertop, and caused a wall and the ceiling to collapse.
Five years after the bombing, Mahon and his twin brother were indicted in the case. Law enforcement was able to identify Mahon as a suspect because he left a voicemail with the office months before the incident, stating he was “Dennis Mahon of the White Aryan Resistance of Arizona.”
The message said:
“The White Aryan Resistance is growing in Scottsdale. There’s a few white people who are standing up. Take care.”
The Mahons were featured in “Extremism in America,” a series of profiles on the Anti-Defamation League website. Following their indictment, the ADL updated its profile, on which it had previously reported that the Mahons were “keeping a low profile” after having been visible in national and international WAR and Ku Klux Klan activities years earlier.
Substantial evidence, including forensic, audio, and video, was uncovered over a number of years leading to Dennis Mahon’s indictment and subsequent conviction. Daniel Mahon was acquitted in a joint trial.
Dennis Mahon’s attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Dan Kaplan, told Courthouse News Service in July that he was a “a little disappointed and a little surprised” by the panel decision. “I thought that the Supreme Court was very clear in a case in 2000 that that statute needed to be construed very narrowly,” he said.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court found unanimously in Jones v. United States that a man could not be convicted of throwing a Molotov cocktail into a home under the federal statute because a residence not used for any commercial purpose does not qualify as property used in commerce. The panel, however, said a building used for governmental or non-profit activities might still have a sufficient connection to commerce to qualify under the statute.
Owens wrote for the court that the building in question was “inherently commercial” because the diversity office regularly took actions that affected interstate commerce.
“Partnering with numerous corporate sponsors and local hotels, it planned, hosted, and supported events that drew thousands of people to Scottsdale,” Owens wrote. “It worked with a national bureau to arrange for speakers (who were paid thousands of dollars) to come to the city, and took applications and payments from vendors to participate in these events. And it employed several forms of media and a dedicated phone line to publicize its events.”
Mahon argued that even if the statute was constitutional, it was unconstitutionally applied to his case.
“This argument is equally unavailing-that the property or the crime might be traditionally local in nature does not foreclose section 844(i)’s application where the property possesses the requisite nexus to interstate commerce,” Owens found.
United States v. Mahon, 12-10273, was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan G. Ruffenach, whose office declined a CNS request for comment.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company