County gets proposal to boost federal drug case prosecutions

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GRAND ISLAND -- The state’s U.S. attorney wants Hall County’s help to boost prosecution of drug cases in central Nebraska.

Joe Kelly pitched the idea Tuesday to the Hall County Board of Supervisors, asking for the county’s participation in hiring an additional assistant U.S. attorney to prosecute central Nebraska traffickers. Kelly said his office would hire the attorney and that person’s salary would be paid through a federal Drug Enforcement Administration program called High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.

The federal program guidelines require that the funding go to the Nebraska State Patrol and then to either state or local government — in this case Hall County, The Grand Island Independent reported .

“Your chore in our proposal would simply be to pay the salary and then be reimbursed,” Kelly told the board members.

The new attorney would work almost exclusively on cases that the Central Nebraska Drug and Safe Streets Task Force or local and federal agencies generate in the area and that need to be prosecuted in federal court.

A deputy Hall County attorney had been sworn in to serve in the special assistant role to work with the task force, Kelly said, but that hasn’t been the case since Marty Klein, now the Hall County attorney, last served in that position about a year ago.

“Does that mean there have been no prosecutions in federal court for this area since Mr. Klein left that position? No,” Kelly said. “But does it mean we haven’t had a focus on this area with a little more energy than we normally would have had? Yes,” he said.

The proposal wasn’t an action item on the board agenda, but it’s expected to resurface for a vote at the next board meeting, Feb. 18.

“It looks to me like we don’t have much to lose,” said Supervisor Dick Hartman in reaction to Kelly’s request. “I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t get the show on the road.”