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Nebraska attorneys reprimanded for scheme to banish from state people charged with felonies

A district attorney and defense attorney in Nebraska were reprimanded over a Wild West-reminiscent scheme of ordering two convicted criminals to leave town and never return.

On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Steven Bowers, prosecutor for Custer County, and Christopher Wickham, attorney for Broken Bow, for carrying out the “banishment plan”. The Supreme Court said Bowers and Wickham violated the code of conduct and their oath as lawyers.

Under the scheme brokered by Wickham and Bowers, the defense attorney advised his clients, who had been charged with crimes, to plead guilty and then flee the state prior to conviction with an agreement that they would not return.

Bowers, the district attorney, agreed that if the men skipped their conviction hearings and left the state, he would order the county sheriff not to apply for extradition to bring them back to Custer County. Wickham and Bowers also planned to request low bail for the men so they could be released before the verdict hearings.

The court’s referral orders do not include the names of the men accused, what charges they were pleading on, or when the plan was carried out.

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In the referral warrant against Bowers, the Supreme Court said at least one of the men fled Custer County before his conviction hearing and was later arrested near Omaha about 200 miles away. Bowers did not attempt 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 that The Associated Press left on Friday soliciting comment.

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Bowers and Wickham both filed a response with the Nebraska Counsel for Discipline in which they conditionally admitted the violations and in exchange for the reprimands they waived any contestation of the allegations.

The referral does not affect the attorney’s ability to practice law, but does require that they disclose the referral if they wish to practice law in another state where they are not licensed.

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