Dawes County Sheriff Karl Dailey has been ordered to pay a $750 fine and court costs after being convicted in a bench trial of official misconduct for refusing to accept a prisoner from the Nebraska State Patrol in July 2019.
Dailey had faced a maximum penalty for the Class 2 misdemeanor of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine, but County Judge Randin Rollin said jail and probation weren’t appropriate or needed.
Defense attorney Charles Brewster of Kearney said afterward that the sentence was “fitting under the circumstances,” and that they will appeal the conviction.
Dailey maintained he refused to take Jesse Sierra because of concerns over Sierra’s medical condition and concerns over jail security, but the prosecution argued he acted out of spite over feuds and perceived slights with other law enforcement agencies that were amplified by the Sierra case.
Special Prosecutor Corey O’Brien, head of the attorney general’s criminal bureau, told Judge Rollin, that he’s been asked frequently why the decision had been made to prosecute Dailey, first elected sheriff in 1986 and reelected 8 times since then.
O’Brien said the most important reason was that Dailey let his ego put the public and law enforcement officers in danger by refusing to take Sierra, forcing the only Nebraska State trooper on duty within 100 miles to drive the prisoner to the Scotts Bluff County jail in Gering.
O’Brien said he would have been derelict in his duty had he not prosecuted because one of the vital roles of sheriffs is to house prisoners and the Dailey case sends a message to future sheriffs that they must have legitimate reasons not to take a prisoner.
Dailey declined to speak at sentencing and Brewster focused his comments on why jail or probation would not be appropriate.
In ordering the fine, Judge Rollin said he sincerely hoped such an incident never occurs again, praising Dailey for his nearly 5 decades in law enforcement but saying the sheriff allowed his personal distaste for a few individuals to cloud his judgement.
Rollin also said that both the Sheridan and Box Butte County jails refused to take Sierra was irrelevant because the prisoner had been arrested in Dawes County and it was Dawes County’s responsibility to house him or move him somewhere else.
Brewster said afterward that Judge Rollin’s comments were “very well-intentioned and appropriate, under the circumstances.” He also said Dailey’s appeal will be filed with the district court within 30 days, but since Judge Travis O’Gorman will likely recuse himself, he wasn’t sure of when a decision might be issued.
Most of the evidence at Dailey’s trial was audio or video recordings from police cameras of Dailey verbally blasting the NSP and Chadron pole and from 2 lengthy interviews with Dailey by a State Patrol investigator several weeks later.