CUSTER COUNTY— Custer County District Court had two criminal cases on Thursday, March 5 where one man entered a plea and the other was sentenced.
The morning began with Mitchell E. Burnett, 47 of Anselmo, as he made an appearance for entry of a plea. Burnett was scheduled for a trial in February but was able to work a deal out with the County Attorney’s Office before the trial took place. On Thursday, Burnett pled no contest to one count of theft by taking (class IV felony). In exchange for the plea, the county attorney’s office dropped two charges of 2nd-degree forgery and one additional charge of theft by taking.
According to the factual basis, read by Custer County Deputy Attorney Kayla Haberstick, the Victoria Township board had noticed inconsistencies in their checking account after checks were found to have been written out of order and to a business that was owned by Burnett.
Board members also confirmed that Burnett was often in control of the checkbook and would sometimes take it home to catch up on writing checks. Handwriting experts also confirmed that the signatures on the forged checks did not match the real signature that were on previous checks.
Burnett will now appear back in court on April 16 at 10:15 AM for sentencing on the theft charge. While Burnett could face up to two years in prison and be fined up to $10,000, an agreement was reached on sentencing where both parties would recommend probation and to pay back $6,862 in restitution.
Kenneth E. Loucks, 42 of Broken Bow, made his appearance in district court for sentencing after being found guilty at a previous court hearing for two charges of 3rd-degree assault (each a class I misdemeanor). During arguments, Deputy Attorney Haberstick listed off Loucks’ criminal history which contained a number of assault charges dating back to the mid-1990s.
Haberstick also stated that in the pre-sentence report Loucks was not taking responsibility for his actions and was deflecting accountability and would also not address the mental health issues that appeared to be in the report. It was said that Loucks claimed he did nothing wrong and was not being treated fairly. She recommended two years of probation.
Loucks’ attorney, Christopher Wickham, asked that Judge Karin Noakes follow the plea agreement of probation and that his client is gainfully employed and has taken responsibility for his actions. Wickham also said that his client is ready to face the issues and would comply with whatever programs were imposed.
Loucks did briefly speak before his sentencing, saying that the person he assaulted was not supposed to be near his family. Loucks also said he is not a criminal and admitted to “losing his cool,” but stated that he stood up for his family.
Before imposing the sentence Judge Noakes, addressed Loucks and said that she understands that there were a lot of emotions in the situation, but “you cannot take the law into your own hands.”
Judge Noakes did follow with the plea agreement and sentenced Loucks to two years of probation for each count of assault to run concurrently with each other.