Ariz. Neo-Nazi’s Bombing Conviction Upheld

     PHOENIX (CN) – A white supremacist’s conviction for the bombing of Scottsdale’s Office of Diversity and Dialogue, which seriously injured a black city official, should stand, the 9th Circuit ruled Monday.
     Dennis Mahon was sentenced in 2012 to 40 years in a federal prison for 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.
     Mahon’s conviction stems from a Feb. 26, 2004, incident in which Don Logan – the diversity office director and a black man – 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.
     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 White Aryan Resistance is growing in Scottsdale. There’s a few white people who are standing up. Take care,” Mahon’s message stated.
     Substantial evidence, including forensic, audio, and video, was uncovered over a number of years leading to Mahon’s indictment and subsequent conviction.
     Mahon appealed, alleging he was improperly convicted under the federal statute because there was insufficient evidence the diversity office participated in interstate commerce.
     Writing for a three-judge panel, Ninth Circuit Judge John B. Owens disagreed with Mahon and said a number of legal cases “teach us that a building may qualify per se under section 844(i)’s jurisdictional requirement if it is inherently commercial.”
     The diversity office, Owens found, 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.
     Assistant federal public defender Dan Kaplan – Mahon’s attorney – said he was “a little disappointed and a little surprised” by Monday’s 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.
     Kaplan anticipates that he will file a petition asking the court to reconsider its decision.
     The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona declined to comment on the ruling.

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