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


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 





Just a text away: ‘Sextortion’ cases skyrocket as smartphone access increases among children

Posing as a young woman on Facebook, a 26-year-old man from Lincoln duped five teenage boys from Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa into sharing explicit photos and videos of themselves.

In another recent case, after meeting a 12-year-old Georgia girl on the smartphone game Clash of Clans, a 37-year-old man from Omaha convinced the girl to send him nude photos of herself. He claimed he was 18.

And in a third case, nude photos a teenage Nebraska girl sent to an adult were traded and used as leverage to get her to send more to another man.

Online child-exploitation cases like these are signs of a new age, in which pedophiles have unprecedented access to children, says Nebraska State Patrol Sgt. Cory Townsend, who heads the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Read More. 

Man charged in Nebraska rape case could go free after his calls to his lawyer were recorded

HASTINGS, Neb. — The young woman told a story of a rape so brutal it would motivate any criminal investigator to act.

Visiting family in Red Cloud, Nebraska, five years ago when she was 15, the Colorado woman said an older male relative got her drunk and forced her to shower with one of his children as he watched. Then he handcuffed her to a bedpost and “attacked her private parts” until she passed out, according to court records.

After coming to, she realized that she had suffered a vaginal tear that “hurt and was bleeding.” The girl, described by her mother as having an intellectual disability and mental illness, was left with a scar running to her inner thigh.

Later, during a videotaped interview of a witness in the case, Webster County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dianne Nichols said: “I’m bound and determined to take the little f—– down,” referring to the perpetrator.

“That’s why I’m kind of skirting a few things this time,” the sergeant added a bit later in the interview.

A District Court judge must soon decide if “skirting a few things” may have included listening to recorded phone calls the man placed from jail to his lawyer. Read More. 





Proposed $120 million Douglas County justice complex would shrink youth detention center, raise taxes

A proposal for a new Douglas County Juvenile Court, office and youth detention complex received a warm welcome from the Douglas County Board on Tuesday in its debut appearance in public.

Six County Board members spoke favorably about the $120 million proposal, though they stopped short of saying how they will vote when it comes down to deciding whether to increase property taxes to pay for it.

Board member Mary Ann Borgeson, who has championed the project and worked on a committee shaping it, said the new complex would improve juvenile and family justice. She said she hopes people focus on how it will affect families and not only on cost. Read More.