O’Brien and inmate Kevin Hannig allegedly assaulted Houck Nov. 10, 2011, at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, according to the Jan. 17 indictment.
At the time of the incident, Houck was reading a gay novel in his cell, according to criminal records.
“Less than one minute after entering Houck’s cell, O’Brien came out of the cell and motioned for Hannig,” according to a motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “Hannig and O’Brien then entered Houck’s cell together. They kicked, punched and stomped on Houck’s leg, breaking it.”
Hannig, of Wildwood, N.J., was indicted last June.
But last week’s indictment supersedes Hannig’s earlier indictment.
According to court records, Hannig is expected to be arraigned again, this time under the new indictment. Both men are charged with assault that caused serious bodily harm to Houck.
If convicted, they face an additional 10 years in federal lock-up.
At presstime, neither defendant had been arraigned.
David E. Cooper, an advocate for Houck, expressed relief at O’Brien indictment.
But Cooper also said he was concerned that neither man has been charged with a hate crime.
In Cooper’s opinion, O’Brien and Hannig targeted Houck because of his sexual orientation.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this was a hate crime,” Cooper told PGN. “They hurled slurs at Kenny that certainly indicate that it was a hate crime.”
Under federal law, assaults motivated by anti-LGBT animus on federal property may be prosecuted as hate crimes, thus increasing penalties for perpetrators.
Patricia Hartman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, had no comment on whether the men would be charged with a hate crime.
Under the federal Speedy Trial Act, a federal defendant has a right to a trial within 70 days of his or her arraignment.
Cooper noted earlier this week that prosecutors hadn’t yet interviewed Houck, and that he hoped an interview would take place shortly.
“I hope the government accumulates all the information necessary to effectively prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law,” Cooper said.
O’Brien and Hannig are still being held at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia.
At the time of Houck’s assault, O’Brien, 25, was awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to robbing three banks.
According to court records, O’Brien admitted stealing a total of $3,185 from three banks in Northeast Philadelphia.
On Jan. 18, U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois indefinitely postponed O’Brien’s sentencing for those bank robberies.
Paul J. Hetznecker, an attorney for O’Brien, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Hannig was at the detention center when Houck was assaulted because he violated terms of supervised release stemming from an unrelated bank-robbery conviction.
Hannig’s jury trial for Houck’s assault was set for Jan. 22, with U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn presiding.
But due to last week’s superseding indictment, Yohn postponed the trial date.
Both men are expected to be tried jointly in the Houck incident, though their attorneys may request separate trials.
At the time of the indictment, Houck, 37, was awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to one count of transporting child pornography.
Last February, U.S. District Judge Gregory M. Sleet sentenced Houck to 97 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. Houck’s projected release date is March 3, 2018, if he doesn’t commit any infractions while in custody.
Cooper said Houck continues to recover from his injuries at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C.
W. Christopher Montoya, an attorney for Hannig, couldn’t be reached for comment.
On Dec. 6, Montoya filed a motion seeking Hannig’s release on bail, but he later withdrew the motion.