Photo by Lincoln County Detention Center
Aaron M. Brannigan
Aaron Brannigan was convicted Monday in Lincoln County District Court of a bizarre car theft.Brannigan was arrested for stealing a Dodge Durango from Bridge Street Auto in North Platte on May 10.
The Durango turned up in Hastings on May 14, after Hastings resident Diane Ricketts called police to say her vehicle was stolen. When police arrived to talk to her, she said she traded vehicles with Brannigan for 24 hours, with the understanding that he would return her car the next day. When he did not return, she called the cops.
In the swap, Brannigan, 37, gave her the Dodge Durango, whch was stolen in North Platte.
And after the swap, Brannigan drove her vehicle to Lincoln, where he got into a police chase. He was arrested there, according to court records.
Lincoln County District Judge Richard Birch ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set sentencing for Sept. 25.
Brannigan faces a maximum 20 years in prison.
Defense Attorney Martin Troshynski said his client also faces charges in other counties, whcih he might be able to address between now and the time of sentencing.
Brannigan pled guilty to the charge, which is stealing items valued at more than $5,000. And, in a separate case. he admitted he violated probation from a previous conviction. In return for his cooperation, prosecutors dismissed other charges against him.
Also, Stephanie Wallo, 26, was convicted of attempted possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. She was sentenced to 24 months of probation.
Wallo was arrested April 15 after police investigated a report of a couple arguing in a car. When they arrived, they smelled a strong odor of raw pot inside the vehicle.
A search turned up nearly a half-pound of marijuana in individual packages as well as a scale, numerous empty plastic bags and a marijuana grinder, police spokesman John Deal said.
Wallo and the driver of the car were both arrested.
Wallo pled guilty to the reduced charge of attempted possession with intent to deliver. In exchange for her plea, Deputy County Attorney Angela Franz recommended probation.
Defense Attorney Kent Florom said Wallo has successfully completed treatment at Valley Hope in Norton, Kan.
“Since her release, she has been living in Grand Island,” Florom said. “She has been doing really good with her ‘aftercare,’ has employment and reports to the Hall County sheriff.”
Florom said drug court would be an option, but he said Wallo is mature enough to realize that being around people she knows in North Platte would jeopardize her chances of staying out of trouble.
Birch accepted the plea agreement.
“Your decision to stay in Grand Island is probably an excellent one,” Birch told Wallo. “Jimmy Buffett once said that ‘changes in latitude changes your attitude.’”
“A lot of times when you get out of town and get to hanging with a separate set of people and avoid hanging with the people that got you in trouble, it works out a lot better,” Birch said. “As a part of your probation, you will be involved in the SSAS (Specialized Substance Abuse Supervision) program.”
SSAS enhances traditional probation and parole, adding cognitive behavioral therapy in groups; use of incentives; positive reinforcement; and motivational interviewing, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Robert Bergen was convicted of attempted possession of methamphetamine and sentenced to 240 days in jail.
Bergen, 32, took a deal worked out between the opposing attorneys that reduced the charge to a misdemeanor.
Bergen was confronted on March 9 at the courthouse. Police received a tip that he was there and had drugs in his pocket. An officer found him in county court, which was in session, and asked him to step outside the room, which he did.
When the officer explained the complaint, Bergen reached in his pocket and handed over a pack of cigarettes with a zip lock bag containing white residue, according to court records.
The bag was sent to the Nebraska Crime Lab, where tests confirmed the substance was meth. Bergen was arrested and incarcerated on April 24.
Lindemeier asked for his client’s release from jail, in order to make arrangements for a work release.
“He still has a job and wants to continue working, while he serves his sentence,” Lindemeier said.
Franz objected. She said after Bergen previously posted bond, he failed to appear for a hearing and the county had to obtain a warrant for his arrest.
Bergen said he got confused about the court date, or he would have showed up.
Lindemeier also asked that Bergen receive credit for time he has spent in jail.
“You will receive credit for the time you have already served,” Birch said. “It looks like 18 day now and we will have to figure out how many from before.”
“So, Mr. Bergen, I am going to take a chance on you,” Birch said. “You are going to be out before too long anyway. But, if I let you keep your job and get a work release, I don’t want them to have to track you down.”
“And if you don’t show up (later), you will be charged with a felony of escape, so it is important that you come back, and it is also important that you have a job.”
Lindemeier said his client was asking for a couple of weeks to get everything in order, but suggested a week would suffice.
Franz spoke up to say if Bergen received time to report, he should have to check in with the sheriff’s office regularly.
“Let’s go with 10 days,” Birch said. “I am postponing the execution of the sentence until Aug. 17 at 8 a.m. And remember what I said about showing up.”