Dawes County Sheriff Karl Dailey has been found guilty in a bench trial of misdemeanor Official Misconduct for refusing to accept a prisoner from the Nebraska State Patrol in July 2019.
County Judge Randin Roland of Sidney heard three days of testimony in the case in January, then gave each side 2 weeks to submit closing briefs before he took the case under advisement. Judge Roland issued his ruling on Thursday.
Defense attorney Charles Brewster of Kearney says he’s disappointed by the ruling, adding that while he understands and respects the judge’s analysis, he disagrees with it. Although Brewester declined to discuss the possibility of an appeal, it is considered likely.
Dailey faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but sentencing isn’t expected to be until April or May because of difficulties matching up the schedules of Brewster, Judge Roland, prosecutor Corey O’Brien – head of the attorney general’s criminal division, and the Dawes County Courthouse.
The prisoner Sheriff Dailey refused to accept, 33-year old Jesse Sierra of Pine Ridge, had been arrested for kidnapping and assaulting a Rapid City woman missing for a week. That time included several days in Crawford, which contracts with the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services.
Dailey said he wouldn’t accept Sierra because he was high-risk, given the charges against him, and because he’d been injured and the Dawes County jail lacks medical facilities. Both the Sheridan and Box Butte County jails also refused to accept Sierra.
Prosecutor O’Brien argued that Dailey was actually acting out of spite because he was angry Chadron police and the Nebraska State Patrol had not notified him directly that they were sending officers and troopers to the Crawford motel where the woman had been held.
Longtime Nebraska Crime Commission staffer Daniel Evans testified that it would have been inappropriate under state jail standards to accept Sierra that day, given the jail’s staffing, but Evans later admitted the standards are administrative code that don’t supersede the state law on accepting prisoners.
Judge Roland wrote in his ruling that based on recordings of Dailey played during the trial, “putting it mildly…Sheriff Dailey was extremely upset that his agency was not immediately contacted” and was “still extremely upset and belligerent” when he verbally berated a State Patrol lieutenant.
In his verdict, Judge Roland said the facts in the case were generally not disputed and that he based his decision on the totality of the evidence and his analysis of it.
Roland wrote that Sierra had been “lawfully committed” and that Dailey’s claim he refused to accept the prisoner because of his medical condition or high-risk status was not supported by the evidence and that it was his responsibility to accept Sierra, then find another jail with medical facilities.
If Dailey does appeal his conviction, the case would first go to the district court. The judge with primary responsibility for Dawes County, Travis O’Gorman, would almost certainly recuse himself over conflict-of-interest issues. The next most likely choice is District Judge Derek Weimer of Sidney.
After the district court, an appeal would go to the Nebraska Court of Appeals, although court observers say it’s likely, given the facts and ramifications of the case, that the state Supreme Court would instead take it directly.