Trial over Omaha restaurant's tweet goes to the jury

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- The trial over a social media post from a restaurant owner will go another day. The case was handed over the jurors Tuesday but they haven’t yet reached a verdict.

WOWT 6 News doesn't often cover misdemeanor trials, but this one is different: it's a trial over a tweet.

Did an Omaha restaurant owner's social media post break the law? That's what a six-person jury will decide.

The hearing began Monday in county court. John Horavatinovich is fighting the citation of obstructing a government operation. Day two of the trial against the owner of the restaurant Salt centered on his words. Jurors heard an audio interview of him from the state patrol -- and his testimony as he chose to take the stand.

In August, a compliance check operated by the Nebraska State Patrol and Project Extra Mile stopped at Salt 88. Two 17-year-olds tried to buy Bud Lights but were turned away by staff.

Horavatinovich posted their photos from the security camera on Twitter and he used the word “sting” in the post. He says he had no way to know if was actually one since the organizers don't tell restaurants before or after a check - unless they are caught.

"We were presented with two minors trying to buy alcohol at our restaurant. Had I known they were minors working with authorities in a compliance check, I would have deleted it immediately. But we didn't find that until 12-days after the tweet," Horavatinovich explained.

Recently retired Nebraska State Patrol Sergeant Robert Elliott cancelled the operation that night. He was first to testify Monday. He said he worried the safety of the two 17-year-olds working with investigators could be jeopardized by anyone who saw their photo on social medial.

On Monday the defense team questioned the witnesses, trying to lay the framework that the restaurant owner had no way of knowing it was a compliance check. After two and a half hours of testimony on Monday and a two and a half hours of testimony Tuesday, it was handed over to jurors.

They didn't reach a verdict Tuesday so deliberation will resume Wednesday.