CUSTER COUNTY— Only a handful of cases were heard in Custer County District Court on Thursday, July 16 which began with the arraignment of a 44-year-old Merna man.
Brent Safranek was arraigned on five charges including alleged flight to avoid arrest (class IV felony), driving without an ignition interlock device (class IV felony), driving under the influence of alcohol .15 or higher-aggravated (class W misdemeanor), willful reckless driving (class III misdemeanor), and speeding for driving 82 MPH in a 65 MPH zone (infraction).
Safranek pled not guilty to all five charges and the case was set for trial to take place on October 26 at 9 AM. While the trial date was set, Custer County Attorney Steve Bowers stated that Safranek was being considered for North Central Nebraska Problem Solving Court and the trial would most likely not be needed. Bowers asked the court to set a progression conference date a few weeks out, and it was set for August 6 at 10 AM.
Otto Schneidereit, 45 of Anselmo, made his appearance for entry of a plea on two amended charges of driving under the influence of alcohol-1st offense (class W misdemeanor) and leaving the scene of an accident with injury (class IIIA felony). According to the factual basis read by Bowers, Schneidereit was “booze cruising” with two other passengers when the vehicle he was driving rolled resulting in injuries to the passengers.
Schneidereit left the scene of the accident and was found later at a home by the Custer County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). Schneidereit agreed to a blood draw where the test results showed he had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .110.
Schneidereit is facing a jail sentence of 7-60 days, a $500 fine, and a possible license revocation for the DUI charge and a prison sentence of 0-3 years along with possibly being fined up to $10,000 for leaving the scene of the injury accident. Schneidereit pled no contest to two charges and will now appear back in court for sentencing on September 10 at 11 AM.
Ivan Morales, 29 of Thorton, CO, took a plea deal on Thursday and will now be sentenced on one charge of possession with the intent to distribute THC (class IIA felony). According to the factual basis read by Bowers, Morales was pulled over for speeding on May 12 by CCSO.
The officer detected the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle and, after a search, marijuana joints were found in the center console and THC wax was found in backpacks that were locked in suitcases in the back of the vehicle. $53,170 was also located in the vehicle that was rolled into $2,000 denominations adding to the distribution charge.
Morales pled gulty to the sole charge and will be back in court on September 10 at 11:15 AM for sentencing. He could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison at the Nebraska Department of Corrections.
Brice Carpenter, 25 of Merna, was the only person sentenced in court on Thursday after he took a plea deal in June and pled guilty to abuse of a vulnerable adult (class IIIA felony), possession of stolen property (class IV felony), and admitted to violating his post-release supervision from a previous case.
During arguments, Bowers read off Carpenter’s criminal history which included thefts beginning in 2015, driving under suspension charges, and terroristic threat charges. During his post-release from previous cases, Bowers stated that Carpenter had failed to comply with any orders or recommendations to help including half-way housing.
In addition, Carpenter had been sanctioned a number of times while in jail including making derogatory and sexual comments to the jailers and also said that they were doing their job wrong and that they were only to take care of him.
During the argument, Carpenter made a brief outburst that included profanity which Judge Karin Noakes warned him not to do again. Bowers continued and said that Carpenter could control his emotions when he wanted to, but uses the excuse of mental health only when it is a benefit to himself.
Bowers asked the court to sentence Carpenter to three years in prison for the abuse charge, two years in prison for the theft charge, and to serve the remainder of his post-release supervision in prison with all charges to run consecutively.
Carpenter’s attorney, Gary Peterson, stated that the outburst was in correlation to the bi-polar diagnosis that was reached in a psychiatric evaluation. Peterson noted that while the psych evaluation does state that it will be difficult to treat Carpenter, it does not say it won’t be impossible.
Peterson also said that this case started because Carpenter borrowed the car of his cousin, Mathew McAlevey, which he had done a number of times previously, but this time McAlevey said no. Peterson noted that his client had every intention of bringing the car back at some point in the future, but the police were called before he could return the car. Peterson asked that whatever the sentence was, that is be ordered to be served concurrently as it was two crimes committed at the same time and should be served at the same time.
Judge Noakes ordered that Carpenter serve 12 months in prison for his violation of post-release supervision and was given no credit for time already served. She also ordered him to serve 18 months in prison along with 12 months of post-release supervision for each count of theft and abuse and was given credit for 94 days already served. She also ordered that all charges are to be served concurrent to one another.