Bruning: No charges to be filed in prison sentence miscalculation mess

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – Attorney General Jon Bruning and the county attorney both did separate investigations of the prison sentence miscalculation scandal and concluded that while state employees may have been incompetent, lazy and downright bad at their jobs, no crimes were committed.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning

Bruning announced the decision not to press charges Monday at a joint press conference with Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly. Bruning also released the results of their investigation — a thick binder — to reporters, in the interest of transparency.

The prosecutors looked at charging a handful of state employees, past and present, with official misconduct or obstructing government operations, but couldn’t prove intent. The maximum for both charges is one year in prison.

“Incompetence or negligence is not a crime under the applicable statutes,” Bruning said. “What the facts showed me was that this was incompetence, ineptitude, negligence — but not criminal intention.”

The investigation was launched after the Omaha World-Herald reported last summer that the prison system has been incorrectly calculating sentence for some prisoners for nearly 20 years, even after 2002 and 2013 state Supreme Court rulings clarifying the proper process. Hundreds of prisoners were released too early or scheduled to be released too early.

Bruning said he was embarrassed, disappointed and angered by the level of incompetence displayed by some state employees, particularly former lead attorney George Green, who retired rather than be fired.

“If I thought we could ethically bring charges, we would,” Bruning said. “The incompetence displayed in this case does not reach the level of a crime.”

Kelly said his office reached the same conclusion, noting that it was difficult to ascertain the official duties of corrections attorneys.

“It was very difficult to tell exactly who was in charge of what when it came to these issues,” Kelly said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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