Omaha restaurateur on trial for tweet

Omaha restaurateur John Horavatinovich tweeted a security cam picture of two 17-year-olds turned away trying to buy beer at his establishment with an accompanying comment that included the word “sting.” Now he’s on trial on misdemeanor charges of obstructing a government operation. His lawyers argue that he had no way of knowing whether the teenagers were working with authorities, since they did not declare themselves. The case is now in the hands of jurors. [WOWT]

P.S.: Compare this 2012 post, “Judge: flashing headlights to warn of speed trap is protected speech [under First Amendment].”

Follow-up: verdict Not Guilty.


  • Kind of ridiculous if you ask me. Maybe he thought it was a law enforcement operation, but didn’t know for sure, which is why he wrote “sting.”

    Many many years ago, as a baby prosecutor, I had a similar situation arise. The local authorities were sending in cops who happened to be under 21 to purchase beer from local convenience stores. One convenience store got busted and called a few others in the area to warn them of the operation.

    The police wanted to know if they could charge him with obstructing their investigation. My thoughts at the time were that they were going to try to arrest someone for telling other people to make sure they comply with the law. That didn’t sound like obstruction to me, and it still doesn’t.

    This case is a little different because it involves the dissemination of photos of undercover informants, but still.

  • Hmmmm. Publishing truthful information without a prior agreement to keep quiet, and he’s haled into court? Seems to me that some prosecutors need to be acquainted with the First Amendment.

  • I don’t see how he could lose this case. He had no specific knowledge that this was a sting operation, he just guessed it based on what he saw, same as anyone else could. If they are really worried the kids were put in danger, they did it with their own actions, not because of the restaurant owner.

    • Other than your first sentence, I think you are spot on. Since this is a jury trial, I can see him losing, but he certainly shouldn’t.

    • He lost as soon as he was arrested. Oh, he got a “not guilty” but he is likely out tens of thousands of dollars to defend himself from charges that should never have been filed.

  • The restaurant owner has been found “not guilty.”

    Justice prevails, but at what cost to the owner? How much did he have to pay for his defense of an arguably bogus and ridiculous charge?

    Sometimes the process is the punishment.

  • I vote not guilty.