BROKEN BOW–A motion to change venue for the trial of Broken Bow Mayor Jonathon Berghorst has been denied in Custer County Court. Berghorst and attorney Christopher Wickham appeared in court on Thursday, January 9 along with the Nebraska Assistant Attorney General Zachary Blackman.
Judge Tami Schendt accepted exhibits provided by Wickham consisting of articles published by local media outlets, an editorial, and a postcard all referencing Mr. Berghorst.
Wickham proceeded with his argument saying the court has many factors to evaluate when considering changing the venue of Berghorst’s trial. He continued by saying that the publicity of Berghorst’s charges and the published grievances filed by Broken Bow police officers make it nearly impossible for a jury pool to be unbiased.
Wickham said the information disseminated to the public has created a “growing animosity toward Mr. Berghorst,” who currently serves as the mayor of Broken Bow and is in the midst of a recall election.
Zachary Blackman objected to the venue change motion saying it is premature at this time. He said the published articles and lack of evidence as to the number of people reading them is not enough to show that the venue should be changed and that a jury pool would be impartial. Blackman said most of the published accounts have been factual and are “not sufficiently inflammatory that would prejudice the population of Custer County.”
Blackman requested the court deny the motion.
Judge Tami Schendt overruled the motion, adding that the jury will be pulled from the entire county and there is not enough evidence of a tainted jury pool. The defendant will have the opportunity to renew the motion for venue change at a later time.
Judge Schendt said 40 notices will be sent to potential jurors (as opposed to the normal 30 notices according to the Custer County Court clerks).
The trial is currently set for Wednesday, January 29 at 9 a.m.