Prosecutor, attorney reprimanded for ‘banishment’ scheme
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A prosecutor and a defense attorney in Nebraska have been reprimanded for a scheme reminiscent of the Wild West in which they told two convicted criminals to get out of town and never return.
On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued public reprimands for Custer County Attorney Steven Bowers and Broken Bow defense attorney Christopher Wickham for carrying out the “banishment plan.” The high court said Bowers and Wickham violated rules of professional conduct and their oaths as attorneys.
Under the plan brokered by Wickham and Bowers, the defense attorney advised his clients, who had been charged with felonies, to plead guilty then flee the state before sentencing, with the understanding that they would not return.
Bowers, the prosecutor, agreed that if the men skipped out on their sentencing hearings and left the state, he would direct the county sheriff to not seek extradition to have them returned to Custer County, the high court said. Wickham and Bowers also schemed to seek a low bail for the men, so they could be freed before the sentencing hearings.
The court’s reprimand orders don’t reveal the names of the men who were charged, what charges they pleaded to or when the scheme was carried out.
In the reprimand order against Bowers, the high court said at least one of the men fled Custer County before his sentencing hearing and was later arrested about 200 miles (320 kilometers) away near Omaha. Bowers did not seek to extradite the man to Custer County, and he was released from custody, the court said. The court did not say what happened to the other man.
Neither Bowers nor Wickham immediately returned phone and email messages left Friday by The Associated Press seeking comment.
Bowers and Wickham both filed responses with the Nebraska Counsel for Discipline conditionally admitting the violations and waiving any challenges to the accusations in exchange for the reprimands.
The reprimand does not affect either attorney’s ability to practice law but does require them to disclose the reprimand if they seek to practice law in another state where they’re not licensed.