Inmate who punched guard during 2015 Tecumseh Prison riot pleads guilty, gets extra year in prison

LINCOLN — An inmate who punched a guard during the 2015 Mother’s Day riot at the Tecumseh State Prison has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to an additional year behind bars.

John Zalme, 70, was charged with assaulting corrections Sgt. Shane Sears during the initial moments of the riot on May 10, 2015.

On Monday, Zalme pleaded guilty in exchange for the assault charge being reduced to a misdemeanor and a second charge of being a habitual criminal being dropped. Johnson County District Judge Dan Bryan then sentenced him to an additional year in prison.

The inmate was already serving a 130- to 229-year sentence for 10 prior criminal convictions, including a 1981 assault of a corrections officer.

Zalme’s trial had been scheduled to begin Monday in Johnson County District Court in Tecumseh.

Two inmates were killed and more than $2 million in damages were done when inmates took over parts of the Tecumseh prison for several hours.

No charges have been filed in the two slayings, and officials have acknowledged that it has been difficult to obtain testimony from inmates.

Three other inmates have been found guilty or pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the riot.

A trial has not yet been set for Fredrick Gooch, the inmate prosecutors say threw the first punch at a corrections officer at the beginning of the riot.

In July, a sixth inmate, Justin Busch, was charged with four counts of arson in connection with the riot. He is scheduled to appear in Johnson County District Court on Monday.