Omaha police want to change law on releasing grand jury report when an officer is indicted

November 6, 2018

Omaha’s police chief wants to tweak a law designed to make grand juries more open.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said a bill by State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha two years ago had the unintended consequence of making public a grand jury’s final report in cases when an officer is indicted.

Evidence, including transcripts and exhibits, should be released, Schmaderer said, but not immediately. That information should be released after an officer’s criminal proceedings are over, he said.

“Law enforcement officers are like everybody else,” he said. “They deserve proper due process in their cases, and this little cleanup will ensure that takes place.”

Chambers said that at first blush, the proposal sounds reasonable, but he promised to take a “microscopic-type” look at any proposed legislation.

“I’m willing to look at it and talk to (Schmaderer),” Chambers said. “He has always shown that he is acting in good faith. He knows that I am, too.”

The proposal is one of several under consideration to be City of Omaha priorities for the 2019 session of the Nebraska Legislature. On Tuesday, the City Council will hold a public hearing and vote on whether to advocate for the bills when state senators convene at the State Capitol in January. Read More. 

 

Judge says he handed off Millard South sex assault case because attorney once represented him

By Todd Cooper / World-Herald staff writer

November 6, 2018 

The judge who recused himself in a former Millard South administrator’s sexual assault case said there’s a simple reason he stepped aside: An attorney in the case once represented the judge.

Douglas County District Judge Duane Dougherty released that reasoning after prosecutors requested last week that he explain why he recused himself nine months after being assigned the case of Matt Fedde, the former assistant high school principal who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old student at the school.

Dougherty refused to reconsider his recusal, saying it was in the best interests of justice for him to hand off the case. He cited the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct, which says “a judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” For more information.

 

 

 

 

A Nebraska State Trooper was honored Wednesday by President Donald Trump at the White House for his efforts in combating the opioid crisis.

LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR, Collin Spilinek
October 25, 2018

Trooper Sam Mortensen was honored in the event, which had members of Congress and law enforcement in attendance.

Trump pledged on Wednesday to put an “extremely big dent” in the scourge of drug addiction in America by signing a bipartisan bill from Congress — and supported by all five members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation — intended to attack the opioid crisis.

The legislation will add treatment options and get the U.S. Postal Service to screen overseas packages for a synthetic form of opioids called fentanyl, which is being shipped largely from China.

Closer to home, the Nebraska State Patrol has seized more than 176 pounds of fentanyl in the past year. In 2018 alone, more than 40 pounds of heroin and 2,000 dosage units of illegally possessed prescription drugs have been seized. Read More. 

 

 

 

Gov. Ricketts Appoints Andrew R. Lange to the County Court of the Fifth Judicial District

LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts appointed Andrew R. Lange of Waverly to the County Court of the Fifth Judicial District.

Lange, 43, is currently the Chief Deputy Attorney for Saunders County.  In his role, Lange assists in every aspect of the Saunders County Attorney’s Office while focusing on criminal prosecution, juvenile law, mental health commitments, and child support enforcement.  Lange also often acts as Special Prosecutor for various counties throughout the Fifth Judicial District.

Before serving as Chief Deputy Attorney, Lange was an Adjunct Legal Professor at Doane University and an Associate Attorney for Seiler & Paker P.C., L.L.O. For More Information.

Lange holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and public administration from Doane University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Nebraska College of Law.

 

 

 

 

 

Gov. Ricketts Appoints James M. Masteller to the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District

LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts appointed James M. Masteller of Omaha to the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District.

Masteller, 45, currently serves as a Deputy County Attorney for Douglas County.  In his 17 years with the Douglas County Attorney’s Office, Masteller has worked in the Juvenile and Criminal Divisions while trying 58 jury trials.  He currently serves as a Team Leader supervising six Deputy County Attorneys in the Criminal Division.

Before serving as Deputy County Attorney, Masteller was a Federal Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable Thomas M. Shanahan with the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. More Information.

 

 

Nebraska to get $1.3M from Justice Department to fight opioid crisis

Updated 

The Department of Justice has awarded Nebraska more than $1.3 million in grant money to combat the opioid crisis.

It comes as part of $320 million the Justice Department awarded nationally to help those most directly impacted by the crisis, including crime victims, children, families and first responders.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the money will go to prevention, treatment and enforcement.

“We are attacking this crisis from every angle — and we will not let up until we bring it to an end,” he said in a news release this week.

Nebraska’s portion, $1,331,000, will be given to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services ($750,000), the Lancaster County Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program ($500,000), and the Sarpy County Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program ($81,000).

Link to article.

 

 

 

What do I do now?’ Sex trafficking victims face uphill battle to build normal life

When Megan Johnson escaped sex trafficking 10 years ago, there was hardly anyone who could help her.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I don’t have that much money,’” said Johnson, who is now the street outreach director at I’ve Got A Name. “I (also) remember thinking, ‘What do I do now?’”

It’s still a question most victims are faced with when they get out of sex trafficking, and one with no easy answer in a state that lacks many of the long-term resources needed for victims to recover and stay out of sex trafficking. Read More.

 

 

 

Editorial: Nebraska lawmakers need to consider increasing the penalty for witness tampering

Omaha World Herald Editorial September 9, 2018

The American legal system has an all-important obligation to deliver justice. When a defendant is found guilty of a heinous crime and of inflicting terrible suffering, for example, society needs to mete out serious punishment. Justice needs to be served.

But where, an Omaha father rightly asks, is the justice for his family in the wake of legal developments last week?

Kay LeFlore’s son — decorated Army Sgt. Kyle LeFlore — was gunned down in Omaha in January, leaving behind a wife and a 6-year-old son. But now the defendant, Larry Goynes, no longer faces first-degree murder charges in the case. The reason: The state’s key witness backed out.

Prosecutors allege that two people, including an aunt of the defendant, attempted to intimidate the witness, a 36-year-old woman. Read More.

After Omaha murder case crumbles, lawmaker calls for tougher penalties for witness tampering

By noon Wednesday, State Sen. Justin Wayne had received a handful of phone calls from constituents disheartened by the dismissal of murder charges against the man accused of killing decorated Army Sgt. Kyle LeFlore.

By shortly after noon, he had a proposal he hopes will help patch a justice system that he says effectively rewards defendants for intimidating witnesses of such crimes.

Wayne said he will introduce legislation next session to increase the penalty for witness tampering to the equivalent of the underlying crime. As it is now, any defendant who tries to influence a witness faces the lowest possible felony and one year in prison.

Wayne said bolstering the penalty was one logical step he could take after a witness backed out of her account tying Larry Goynes to the January slaying of LeFlore outside the Reign Lounge near 30th Street and Interstate 680 in Omaha. Prosecutors allege that two people — including Goynes’ aunt — had attempted to intimidate the 36-year-old woman, who eventually declined to testify. Read More.

Judge throws out Nebraska rape case over recorded attorney-client calls

The 56-year-old registered sex offender spent the past 18 months in the Red Cloud jail, staring at a possible life sentence on charges that he violently raped a 15-year-old girl.

On Friday, he walked out a free man.

Webster County District Judge Stephen Illingworth dismissed the felony and misdemeanor sexual assault and child abuse charges not because new evidence cleared the accused. Rather, the judge said the state’s case was fatally tainted by recordings of jail phone calls between the defendant and his lawyer that were obtained by the lead criminal investigator.

Just as troubling, the judge said, were videotaped statements of Webster County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dianne Nichols saying she was “skirting a few things” to take down an accused rapist.

“The court finds that dismissal of the charges is the appropriate remedy for Sgt. Nichols’ deliberate intrusion into the attorney-client relationship,” the judge said in his order. “It will chill and strongly discourage future intrusions of this fundamental constitutional right.”

In addition, the judge said: “To rule otherwise would send the wrong message to law enforcement.”

A spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, whose office was assisting in the prosecution of the case, said Friday that the ruling was being evaluated for potential appeal. Read More