No criminal charges will be filed against Department of Correctional Services employees for the miscalculation of prison sentences.
Attorney General Jon Bruning, along with Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly, have determined the misconduct in the prison system didn’t rise to a criminal offense.
“We have independently determined that we cannot prove what criminal law requires to convict any Department of Corrections employees,” Bruning told reporters during a news conference at his Capitol office. “Therefore, we are not able to bring criminal charges against any Department of Corrections employees.”
The two prosecutors considered charges of official misconduct and obstructing government operations, both misdemeanors.
Corrections officials failed to follow State Supreme Court rulings, miscalculating the prison sentences of hundreds of inmates.
Bruning stated incompetence and negligence aren’t a crime under the statutes.
“The inactions of Corrections employees, like not reading or not understanding a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling, demonstrates incompetence and laziness. It doesn’t prove intentional or knowing violation of the law,” according to Bruning.
The Nebraska State Patrol investigated the Department of Correctional Services. NSP handed its investigation over to both Bruning and Kelly. The two conducted a review of the investigation independently. Both came to the same conclusion; that Corrections officials might have been incompetent, but they didn’t commit a crime.
“The bottom line is the level of incompetence we’ve seen from the legal team at the Department of Corrections is beyond the pale. It’s an embarrassment. It’s a blight upon our state government. I’m disappointed by it. I’m angered by it,” Burning stated. “And if I or the prosecutors in my office thought we could ethically bring criminal charges we would have pursued them. However, the incompetence displayed in this matter does not reach the level of a crime.”
The Department of Correctional Services ignored two state Supreme Court rulings, releasing 200 inmates early and setting early release dates for 550 others. The governor’s office and Corrections officials reported 306 inmates were released prematurely by the department. Many inmates received credit for time served in the community without incident. No inmates remain at large.
The Omaha World Herald broke the story in a special investigative piece, which launched a number of investigations, including that of a special legislative committee which held numerous hearings at the Capitol.
A special review of the miscalculations by the Jackson Lewis law firm of Lincoln places the most blame on George Green, the former top lawyer for Corrections. He retired rather than be fired. Also found at fault were records administrator Kyle Poppert, who was suspended; attorney Kathy Blum, who also was suspended; and attorney Sharon Lundgren, who retired. Records Manager Jeannene Douglass also was found at fault. She retired earlier.
The report exonerated former state Corrections Director Bob Houston, director at the time of the miscalculations.
AUDIO: Attorney General Jon Bruning and Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly make announcement about Corrections investigation. [4 min.]