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Thug who beheaded dog with chainsaw faces hate crime charges for trying to ‘get rid of lesbians and gays’

Emma Powys Maurice June 3, 2021
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John Russell Howald

John Russell Howald could spend life in prison for the alleged homophobic attack (Montana Department of Corrections)

A Montana man previously convicted for beheading a dog with a chainsaw is now facing federal hate crime and firearm charges for an alleged homophobic attack.

John Russell Howald, 44, is accused of firing a gun into a gay person’s home and threatening them with “violent, homophobic slurs,” the Department of Justice said on Wednesday (2 June).

As he fired at the house he yelled that he wanted to “get rid of the lesbians [and] gays”, according to newly-unsealed court documents. The offence also includes an attempt to kill the victim.

Howald is charged with one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act and one count of discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

If convicted he faces up to life in prison on the hate crime charge and a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, on the firearm charge.

He’s due to appear before a magistrate on 29 June. Unfortunately, it won’t be the first time.

In 2006, John Russell Howald was sentenced to two years in prison for felony aggravated animal cruelty after pleading guilty to shooting a chocolate Labrador at a campground.

The court heard he pursued the wounded Lab around the side of a trailer and into the trees where he shot at it several more times. Afterwards he came back to the campsite, got a chainsaw and severed the dog’s head.

He then found the dog’s owners and threw the severed head at them, saying, “Here’s your f**king dog back,” according to court documents.

John Russell Howald was charged with felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, attempted aggravated animal cruelty, tampering with evidence, criminal endangerment and two charges of intimidation for the “bizarre” and “violent” crime.

As the case gained worldwide attention, the district attorney’s office received multiple phone calls from witnesses who “feared for their safety” if he was released on bail. Howald was granted bail anyway.

State records reveal that he has several tattoos, including one of a “tribal band with a confederate flag” on his left upper arm and a swastika on his left forearm.

He’s already serving a 10-year sentence in Montana state prison after being convicted of criminal endangerment stemming from the alleged homophobic attack last year, according to the Montana department of corrections.

Related topics: Hate crime, Homophobia

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