Hate crime trial continues for Basin man accused of firing rifle into home
An accidental cellphone audio recording captured in 2020 by a pastor was used as evidence Wednesday in the hate crime trial of a Basin man accused of shooting several rounds from a rifle into the home of a lesbian in an effort to “clean up” the town.
John Russell Howald is charged with violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and for allegedly using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence on March 22, 2020. The indictment alleges Howald tried to injure a woman because of her “actual and perceived sexual orientation” by firing several rounds from his AK-47 rifle into her Basin home, stating that he wanted to “get rid of the lesbians (and) gays.” The offense included an attempt to kill the woman.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Howald, who was then 44, on June 2, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice stated. Howald has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case.
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The trial got underway Tuesday in the Helena courtroom of U.S.