July 31, 2014

Sen. Council pleads guilty; admits to a gambling problem (AUDIO)

Sen. Brenda Council/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Service

State Senator Brenda Council of Omaha today pleaded guilty to failing to report the use of campaign funds to gamble.

Council made the plea during an appearance in Lancaster County District Court in Lincoln. She was fined $250 on each count, plus ordered to pay court costs.

Campaign bank accounts and casino records subpoenaed by the Attorney General’s office indicate Council withdrew $63,052.56 in campaign funds to gamble at a casino in Kansas City, Kansas. The Attorney General said the investigation uncovered $36,166.32 in unreported/prohibited deposits were made between January of 2010 and July of this year as well.

“We all fall down, what I’m doing right now is getting back up,” Council told reporters in a brief statement after her court appearance. “I have admitted to myself and everyone else that I had a gambling problem. I’m receiving treatment for that.”

Council was officially charged with two misdemeanor counts of abuse of public records for failing to report expenditures from her campaign account. State law requires that expenditures of campaign funds be disclosed on campaign finance reports.

Council stated her gambling problem compromised her judgment.

“And, it caused me to commit a grave error in judgment and that is being addressed as well and has been addressed. Right now, I’m just looking forward to moving forward and continuing to serve the great residents of the state of Nebraska,” Council said.

Council declined to take any questioned during her brief appearance in front of reporters. Council is running for re-election against former state Sen. Ernie Chambers, who is attempting a comeback as an independent.

Democratic National Committeeman Vince Powers, appearing with Council as a friend, cautioned against judging Council solely on this offense.

“We judge in Nebraska by the totality of a life,” Powers stated. “Sometimes a demon gets the best of you. We all fight demons. Today and this year, the demon won, but I’m positive Sen. Council will win in the end.”

Attorney General Jon Bruning’s office released a written statement.

“Senator Council knowingly filed false campaign finance statements. Today’s guilty plea helps to ensure she is held accountable for her unlawful actions.”

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this report.

AUDIO: Attorney Vince Powers and Sen. Brenda Council meet with reporters outside courthouse. [1:30]