Thursday, July 7, 2011

Johnny Bonta and Hate Crimes in Fernley, Nevada

On May 24, Paiute Indian Johnny Bonta and his family were involved in a confrontation with several young white men in Fernley, Nevada.  Accounts differ as to what happened next: the Bontas claim they were attacked without provocation by the men, who called them "niggers" and "river monsters" while beating them with baseball bats.  Then, when police arrived, they took statements from the young white men (one of whom, Josh Cassell, purportedly bragged “You hear those cops coming? They’re not going to help you. My daddy is a cop in this town, and nothing is going to happen to me. You fucking niggers are going to jail.”), then took a badly injured Johnny Bonta off to jail, where he was held for six days and refused medical treatment.

For their part, the white assailants claim that Bonta and his family started the confrontation, and they were just defending themselves.  The Lyon County Sheriff's Department (where Cassell's father formerly worked) has said “The allegations made to say we have not investigated this properly are just not true,” and described the accounts of the incident given on the Indian Country Today website as “awfully one-sided and without merit.” The FBI is now investigating the incident, and may be examining security tape taken outside the convenience store where the confrontation began and blood stains at the site of the actual fight.  They are remaining quiet until such time as their investigations are complete, and rightly so.  But meanwhile some of the friends and acquaintances of the white assailants and their supporters have chimed in.

"Leo Mayfield", (assailant Joshua Janiszewski's brother) weighed in on Facebook's "Justice for Johnny Bonta and Family" page with these thoughts:

k well until you people learn to spell im just gonna laugh at you. just like everyone else is gonna laugh when that fat retard johnny bonta is going to go to jail again for being such a pussy, making up lies about some white boys because his fat ass got whoopped. tell him ill see him. get stomped you punk ass indians. This is why your country got took, because your morons. plain and simple. Cant wait to see you pussies cry some more.
Monica Cassell, attacker Josh Cassell's sister-in-law, commented in response to a story in the Reno Gazette-Journal:
This comment is for iammoe and anyone else that wants to talk about the cassell family. I am jacob cassell's sister-in-law i am proud to call him my brother! Let me clue you all in on something dont you dare slander the cassell name and not know us lets start with his dad the retired deputy officer shall we. He threw his other son in jail when he caught him partying in highschool so no he is not corrupt he is far from being a corrupt law officer and another thing he is a grandpa to 3 grand children who are half native american and he loves all of his grand children very much so how dare you pass judgment on our family we are a very diverse family and we are a strong united family.
Next i would just like to say that jacob is an awesome brother and uncle he loves my children and the rest of his neices and nephews very much no matter what their skin color is. Second i would just like to say how about i cry hate crime on my family for bonta seeking my brother jacob and his friend out to fight with them. I am so sick of every time a white person has conflicts with a different color of skin everyone cries hate crime but us white people cant cry hate crime on anyone else. This is so out of control there was never a hate crime commited just bonta looking for a fight and finding one after he ran into my brother-in-laws car and then smashed his window out. But the native american community forgot to tell that right plus did u catch the part when they said they were bragging about hitting a tongan so tell me how they called bonta these racial slurrs for indians but thaught it was a tongan. Their story is a bunch of bs and another bit of info bonta was arrested because he had a warrant so justice was served just like when white people have warrants.
Meanwhile, several people who did not claim to be related to the Cassell family weighed in with their thoughts. One user appears to be familiar with Mr. Bonta's criminal record.  It is unclear whether he served time with Bonta or if he is involved in law enforcement and trying to come to the aid of the Lyon County Sheriff's department:
What was it called back in 95 when Johnny Bonta was in Churchill County jail walking around intimidating everyone else because he was a big bad, gangster indian?
Of course, he wasn't doing much of that after getting a beat down by a skinny white boy after stealing the white boy's lunch.
This loser is far from an innocent. Walk around all tough and gangster and someone is bound to call you on it
User "Naked Truth" noted "Minorities process a powerful weapon. If they don't like the hand they dealt then they can always play the race card. Wrong or right they don't hesitate to use it." while user "TheWord" summed up her opinion more succinctly:
Its good to see the "don't snitch" campaign that is so rampant in the Afro-American community is alive and well in the Injun community as well!! The Bonta side is not talking but yet they have their Injun reps trying to prosecute this in the media. Uhh, newsflash to the Reno/Sparks Injun Colony: We conquered you guys in the 1800s and you live by our rules. After you get our federal money, hit the quick stop for fire water head on over to the sweat lodge and don't let us hear from you again.
While Lyon County Sheriff's department has stated that they do not have evidence linking the assailants to any skinhead or racist groups,  it is telling that Janiszewski purportedly bragged on his Facebook page, "Just laid the fists and boots to some 6′ 5” tongan dude."  I've heard the term "laid the boots" from quite a few Skins in my day, and can't recall hearing it from anyone else.  (I should add that most Skinheads are not racists, but given the situation you can understand why it might be worth exploring his affiliations).

Another Native American said:
Johnny and Lisa,I to have been attacked by Jacob,Josh and others of there group,7 of them at one time. Though they did`nt win with me, they beat my freind pretty bad.My encounter with them was not racialy motivated(I`m white)just opportunistic thuggism, but I do know they have beat other natives because of race.And one was mentally handicapped.I to was taken to jail,and no I did`nt have any warrants,lots of wittnesses that they started everything. The deputy did`nt even care. At the LCSO jail I filled out a report that was never investagated,I believe becuase of who Jacobs daddy is.I know these thugs have been doing this for years in Fernley and so does the sheriff. Though I hope our paths cross again some day it sounds like they have bigger people looking for them.And what a disgrace they call themselves “Army Reservse”.One day they`ll choose the wrong person to mess with and karma will pay it`s due.
It should be easy enough to find the records of this victim's arrest and the incident described.  Should other witnesses come forward it would suggest that Cassell and his friends have a habit of racially motivated attacks that are ignored or even encouraged by Lyon County law enforcement.  As it stands, it is pretty clear that there are some serious underlying racial issues and anti-Native sentiment in Fernley, Nevada. Let us hope that justice is done in this situation and that these festering wounds finally begin to heal.