Former Employee Charged with Stealing from County Argues to Suppress Interviews with County Attorney, Others

COLUMBUS, Neb. – A former Platte County employee accused of stealing over $70,000 from the county argued that interviews with the county attorney, the state auditor’s office and the Nebraska State Patrol should not be used in her trial.

44-year-old Traci Nelsen of Monroe, who led the county’s adult diversion program, is charged with two counts of theft and one count of evidence tampering.

Her attorney Tom Hockabout focused on Nelsen’s interview in August of 2017 with Platte County Attorney Carl Hart and Pam Bourne, a private attorney who represents the county in personnel matters.

Bourne, who was a state witness in the hearing, told the court that Nelsen admitted that she took money from the county during their interview last summer.

Bourne said after the admission, Nelsen asked her if she needed a lawyer. Bourne replied to Nelsen that she couldn’t advice her, since she represents the county.

Hockabout asked Bourne if Nelsen actually said “I think I need an attorney.” Bourne stuck with her previous statement, saying she took Nelsen’s words as a question.

Bourne told the court that Nelsen later in the interview confessed to more wrongdoing.

Both sides also questioned Deann Haeffner from the state auditor’s office, who helped audit the county and found discrepancies in Nelsen’s adult diversion program.

Haeffner said that she, along with a co-worker, questioned Nelsen about her program on the same day that Hart and Bourne conducted their interview.

The suppression interview could not be completed, as Judge Rachel Daugherty had obligations in Merrick County later in the afternoon. It will be continued at a later date, with Nelsen’s trial also getting pushed back.

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