- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

SIDNEY, Neb. (AP) - A judge upheld the conviction and sentencing of a western Nebraska police chief who said he didn’t pursue a criminal case against a city official because not doing so was “in the best interests” of the city.

Judge Travis O’Gorman of Cheyenne County District Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by Sidney Police Chief B.J. Wilkinson, according to online court records. In his ruling, O’Gorman said Wilkinson abused his power by failing to uphold and enforce the law and instead attempted to help a co-worker.

“This is not only wrong, it is unlawful,” the judge said.

It’s unclear whether Wilkinson will appeal further or begin serving his 30-day sentence. The Associated Press left messages for Wilkinson and his attorney seeking comment Wednesday.

State prosecutors said Wilkinson failed to pursue criminal charges against John Hehnke, who then was Sidney’s public works director, after Hehnke’s ex-girlfriend filed a complaint against him in January 2014. She told officers that she believed he had peered into her home and had seen her partially clothed.

Hehnke was cited by an officer, but Wilkinson acknowledged to a Nebraska State Patrol investigator later that he’d removed the citation from others being referred to the county attorney’s office for prosecution.

The case eventually was brought to the attention of state prosecutors, who charged Hehnke. He was fired this past August.

Wilkinson’s attorney, Thomas Sonntag, said during the appeal hearing Monday that Wilkinson’s 30-day sentence was disproportionately tough when compared to Hehnke’s $300 fine for disturbing the peace.

Judge O’Gorman said in his ruling that the sentence of 30 days was well below the misdemeanor maximum of a year in jail and was not an abuse of discretion by the county judge.


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