Dennis Nash Jr. was recently sentenced to the Nebraska State Penitentiary, but that didn’t stop him from asking for a new trial.
On Jan. 12, a Lincoln County jury found Nash guilty of third-degree sexual assault of a child. On Feb. 26, he was sentenced to three years in the state penitentiary and ordered to register as a sex offender for the next 25 years.
Nash, 37, protested the conviction before his sentence was handed down, and threatened to appeal then, but what he asked the court for was unclear, because the county’s $100,000 microphone system was turned off for unexplained reasons.
Since then, Nash obtained the services of Defense Attorney Chevas Shaw. Shaw appeared in Lincoln County District Court Monday to represent Nash, and made four points in his petition for a new trial.
First, Shaw argued that his client had ineffective assistance of counsel, because his attorney did not enter the original police interview of the victim into evidence.
“In that initial report, the victim was far less specific than she grew to be during the duration of the case,” Shaw said.
Second, he said Nash’s original motion to dismiss the charges during the trial should have been sustained.
Next, Shaw said Nash originally asked for a different venue (location) for the trial, a motion that should have been sustained, since the victim’s family is from North Platte.
“Changing it to a surrounding county — justice would have been served,” Shaw said.
Finally, he said the testimony of the person who interviewed the victim at the Bridge of Hope child advocacy center should have been excluded from evidence.
“The testimony of the expert witness should not have been entered, as she was not a psychologist and has only attended seminars on the subject. While she has experience, that does not render her as expert,” Shaw said.
Then, Chief Deputy County Attorney Tanya Roberts-Connick countered with the prosecution’s position.
Roberts-Connick said the first video of an interview with the victim was a short video and did not have much bearing on the case, and later interviews were more detailed.
“As far as change of venue, I don’t think anyone knew Mr. Nash,” she said.
Roberts-Connick noted that prospective jurors who knew the victim and/or the family were removed from the jury pool.
“We are a community and a small town,” she said. “If you are going to commit crimes here, you are going to have to expect to be charged here.”
Roberts-Connick said that there was not any overwhelming publicity that prevented a fair trial.
As far as Nash’s claim about the expert witness, she said advocates and interviewers can be called experts. The interviewer had the experience and knowledge to give her opinion as to whether or not the crime occurred, Roberts-Connick said.
“By the way Mr. Nash’s DNA was found on the victim’s underwear,” she added.
If any evidence was compelling, that was it, Roberts-Connick said.
“The testimony the expert witness gave did not have an overall effect on the outcome, due to the fact he left DNA on her,” she said.
Rowlands ruled that Nash received a fair trial.
“I understand there may be procedural conditions in pursuing an appeal,” he said. “I will go ahead and overrule the motion and allow you to proceed with your appeal.”
He told Shaw to let the prosecution know what he and his client plan to do.
In other district court action Monday, Kelly Schollmeyer was sentenced to 240 days in jail for third-degree domestic assault.
Schollmeyer, 30, pled no contest and in exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of strangulation and making a terroristic threat, and reduced the assault charge to a misdemeanor.
Schollmeyer was arrested Dec. 19 after police investigated a Sept. 12 assault.
The female victim told police that she and Schollmeyer were driving around and stopped on Hall School Road to listen to music. She said he became angry and broke her windshield by throwing her cell phone at it.
She said he choked her and hit her. Police found bruises on her arms and leg, a black eye and red marks on her neck.
Schollmeyer took her cell phone, and police eventually found him by tracking the phone.
Rowlands credited him with 83 days served and ordered him to pay court costs.
Also, Christopher Brewer was convicted of violating the terms of his post-release supervised probation and sentenced to 180 days in jail.
Rowlands terminated his probation. Brewer, 23, asked for time to report to get his affairs in order. Rowlands agreed to give him a week, until Monday, March 19.
Likewise, Joshua Holmes, 25, admitted he violated his post-release probation and was sentenced to 150 days in jail. Rowlands credited him with 86 days served.
Zachary Perez was convicted of his fourth offense of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was sentenced to 270 days in jail.
Perez, 29, pled no contest to the charge.
In addition to the jail time, Lincoln County District Court Judge Richard Birch suspended Perez’s license for 15 years. He received credit for 92 days served.
Jeffery Sierks, 38, was convicted of a post-release probation violation, and sentenced to serve 231 days in jail.
In a separate case, Sierks was also convicted with violation of a protection order and sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Lincoln County District Court Judge Richard Birch ordered the sentences to be served at the same time.
Sierks asked for time to report. Birch ordered him to report March 26.