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Western Nebraska police chief sentenced to 30 days in jail for misdemeanor obstruction count

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SIDNEY, Nebraska — A western Nebraska police chief was sentenced on Friday to 30 days in jail after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing government operations.

Sidney Police Chief B.J. Wilkinson Jr. was sentenced by Judge Paul Wess, who was specially appointed to hear the case, Scottsbluff radio station KNEB reported (http://bit.ly/1CLYTKK ).

The charge stems from what state prosecutors say was Wilkinson's failure to pursue a criminal case against city Public Works Director John Hehnke, after Hehnke's ex-girlfriend filed a criminal complaint in January 2014 against Hehnke.

Instead, city officials have said, Wilkinson decided to handle the matter administratively. Neither Wilkinson nor other city officials have explained what that entailed.

Concerns about Wilkinson's decision not to seek charges against Hehnke eventually were brought to the attention of the Nebraska Attorney General's Office. And earlier this year, a special prosecutor charged Hehnke, 43, with two misdemeanors.

Special prosecutor Doug Warner, an assistant attorney general, said the case against Hehnke involved "window peeping" at his ex-girlfriend's house when she was partially disrobed. Hehnke pleaded no contest in April, was convicted of disturbing the peace and fined $300.

Wilkinson was not immediately jailed after his sentencing. He was ordered to report to the Cheyenne County Jail on Aug. 3, Sheriff John Jenson told The Associated Press on Friday.

Asked whether Wilkinson will be held apart from other prisoners — many of whom he presumably helped convict — Jenson said, "That's something we're considering."

Wilkinson did not return a phone message left at his office Friday seeking comment.

It's unclear how the conviction will affect Wilkinson's position as police chief. Nebraska law enforcement certification standards state that officers must "possess good character" and not be convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a year or more, "including convictions of Class 1 misdemeanors."

The Nebraska criminal code lists obstruction of government operations as a Class 1 misdemeanor.


Information from: KNEB-AM, http://www.kneb.com

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