|Sharon Lindgren (AP)|
By Deena Winter | From Watchdog.org
LINCOLN, Neb. — Sharon Lindgren knew exactly what she was doing when she dropped a bombshell into her testimony during a legislative hearing on prison scandals in September.
Why, Lindgren was asked, did she think the state Department of Correctional Services failed to heed a 2013 Nebraska Supreme Court ruling, State vs. Castillas, on how to calculate certain sentences.
“I’d mentioned Payan,” she told the committee chairman, Sen. Steve Lathrop.
“Mention(ed) what?” he asked.
“State vs. Payan,” she replied.
It was a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that putting sex offenders on lifetime supervision constituted punishment and should be decided by a court, not the corrections department. After the ruling came out, two corrections attorneys — lead attorney George Green and Kathy Blum — met with three lawyers from the attorney general’s office to decide how to proceed.
“What was reported back to me from that meeting was they were told — Kathy and George were told and they both confirmed this — that, oh , it’s a decision in a criminal case,” Lindgren, under oath, told lawmakers. “It doesn’t really cover what the department can or cannot do, so just keep on doing it, which sounds very similar to the position that was ultimately taken in Castillas.”
“Do you tell me this because the culture is to ignore the Supreme Court?” Lathrop asked Lindgren later.
“At least it was my understanding the AG’s office advised the department to ignore the Supreme Court or to not apply the Payan case,” she reiterated. “I think it’s just blatant … a blatant violation of the inmate’s rights.”