February 9, 2015

Former AG Bruning’s office advised corrections to ignore Supreme Court ruling

2-9-2015 Nebraska:

Contrary to what former Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said in September, his office did advise the state corrections department to effectively disregard Nebraska Supreme Court rulings on supervising sex offenders, according to internal documents obtained by Nebraska Watchdog.

Bruning publicly denied that in a September press conference, after two former corrections attorneys said otherwise during their testimony before a legislative committee investigating several corrections scandals.

The department’s failure to heed a 2013 Supreme Court ruling on calculating sentences got it embroiled in scandal last summer when it was discovered sentences were miscalculated for hundreds of prisoners over nearly two decades. Consequently, 750 prisoners’ sentences were lengthened and other ex-cons were rounded up and put back in prison.

The screwed-up sentences were the subject of a special legislative inquiry last fall, with a bevy of corrections officials subpoenaed to testify under oath. During one of those hearings, former corrections attorney Sharon Lindgren said the attorney general’s office previously told two corrections attorneys — her boss, George Green, and attorney Kathy Blum — they didn’t need to heed the Supreme Court’s ruling in a 2009 case called State vs. Payan.

Green backed up her allegation during his testimony, but both of their reputations had been tarnished by the sentencing scandal — they both resigned rather than be fired — and few people paid much attention to what normally would have been a bombshell allegation against the state’s top law enforcement officer.

At the time, Bruning blasted the attorneys and said it was “utterly laughable” for them to start pointing fingers.

“The gang who couldn’t shoot straight can throw any stones they want,” he said in September. “We would never give advice to ignore the Supreme Court. That’s patently ridiculous and offensive.”

He said their testimony was “embarrassing to watch” and when he heard their allegations about his office, he responded with “hardy laughter.”

“They had an in-house group that was utterly incompetent,” Bruning said at the time. “They made the mess. We’re just trying to clean it up. … I certainly hope nobody lied under oath.”

But internal documents obtained by Nebraska Watchdog under the state open records act buttress Green’s and Lindgren’s allegations. ..Continued.. by Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

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