December 22, 2014

Pilger receives replacements for flags destroyed by tornado

Pilger Village Clerk Kim Neiman displays one of the 70 flags donated by Woodmen of the World/Photo courtesy of KLIN

Pilger Village Clerk Kim Neiman displays one of the 70 flags donated by Woodmen of the World/Photo courtesy of KLIN

A patriotic present has been given to Pilger, just before Christmas.

Lt. Governor John Nelson has presented the city with 70 new American flags to replace those damaged during the June 16th tornado that wiped out much of the town.

“We are here to celebrate what can only be described as a triumph,” Nelson stated during a presentation St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. “It’s the triumph of a small town, the triumph over destruction, and the triumph of optimism.”

About 50 Husker student-athletes rescued dozens of Americans flags in Pilger during clean-up about a week after the tornado, but the flags were so damaged they had to be destroyed.

Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN worked with the governor’s office to seek replacements.

Woodmen of the World stepped up and bought the flags.

Woodmen State Manager Jeff Bridges told city officials he hopes the small gesture helps boost morale.

“We know we can’t take away what happened during the tornado, but with this gift hopefully we can reinforce Pilger’s love of community and country, while letting everybody know that we support you,” Bridges said.

Village Clerk Kim Neiman says the donation is just another sign of more recovery in Pilger.

“We’re going to make,” Neiman said. “And we are going to make it. Pilger is coming back. Pilger’s strong. We’re the town too tough to die. We’re not going to die. We’ve got buildings coming up now.”


Immigrant driver’s license issue sent to state court

A lawsuit attempting to force Nebraska to issue driver’s licenses to immigrants brought to this country illegally by their parents has been sent to state court.

Chief United States District Judge Laurie Smith Camp rejected an argument by the American Civil Liberties Union that federal court was the proper venue for its lawsuit filed on behalf of four residents from Omaha.

The four are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program develop by President Barack Obama.

The lawsuit contends Nebraska officials violated state law by refusing to issue the residents driver’s licenses.

Gov. Heineman says changes can keep prison numbers down (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman insists Nebraska doesn’t need a new prison and rejects suggestions the prison scandal has tainted his legacy.

Heineman sticks with his insistence that no new prison is needed.

“I believe at this stage, based on all the information that I know, Nebraska does not need to build a new prison,” Heineman tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview.

A special committee, called the Justice Reinvestment Working Group, has been studying the state prison system. Guided by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the group included the heads of the three branches of government: Gov. Heineman,

Legislative Speaker Greg Adams of York, and State Chief Justice Michael Heavican. Several state senators also served on the working group.

The working group has made a number of suggestions, including alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders, such as community service rather than prison. It also suggests supervised released for the first six months after an inmate is freed from prison would greatly cut down on the chance they return. A greater reliance on mental health and job training programs could also help keep prisoners from returning once released.

The study revealed that Omaha judges seem more inclined to sentence some non-violent offenders to prison that other judges in the state. Also, Heineman suggests those sentenced to six months or less should serve their time in county jails rather than state prisons.

“I’m still of the opinion if we dealt with those issues, prison population would go down, you wouldn’t need to build a new prison, which would be $250 million or more, and that will take away from investments in education,” according to Heineman.

Heineman dismisses any suggestions that the prison sentence miscalculation scandal, first unearthed through an investigative report by the Omaha World-Herald, will harm his reputation. Heineman says mistakes happen in an organization as large as state government and his duty as governor is to address mistakes and seek to solve them, which he says he has done.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

Deadly weekend in Omaha

Crime Scene TapeA deadly weekend in Omaha during two separate shootings.

The Omaha Police Department reports 25-year-old Kerrington Luker was found lying on a sidewalk, dead of a fatal gunshot wound early Sunday morning in northeast Omaha. Few details of the shooting have been released.

Later, police responded to a second shooting in northeast Omaha. Officers found three wounded men early Sunday evening.

27-year-old Derek Johnson died of his wounds.

28-year-old Jermaine Richey and 24-year-old Demetrion Washington are being treated at a local hospitals.

Reports are that more than 20 shots were fired outside an apartment complex.

Bruning challenges ruling to lift life sentence in juvenile murder case

Attorney General Jon Bruning is challenging a judge’s move to overturn the life sentence of a prison inmate convicted of sexually assaulting and shooting his adopted 12-year-old sister.

York County District Judge James Stecker vacated the life sentence of Sydney Thieszen, convicted of first degree murder in the 1987 sexual assault and murder of 12-year-old Sacha Thieszen at their home near Henderson. Sydney Thieszen was 14 at the time.

Bruning has filed a motion in York County District Court, challenging Stecker’s decision to vacate the life imprisonment sentence.

Stecker based his decision on a 2012 United States Supreme Court ruling that prohibits courts from imposing mandatory life sentences against juveniles. The Nebraska Supreme Court has interpreted the court ruling to apply retroactively.

Bruning argues the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to decide whether its ruling applies retroactively. It is scheduled to hear a Louisiana case next year on whether the ruling should apply to cases decided prior to its 2012 decision.

The Attorney General’s Office has asked Judge Stecker to reconsider his ruling, reinstate the life sentence and wait to see what the U.S. Supreme Court decides.