The Box Butte County Public Defender is facing up to 50 years in prison after a controlled delivery organized by law enforcement revealed his purchasing cocaine.

Jon Worthman, 52, of Gering, was taken into custody on the evening of Jan. 7 in Scottsbluff. According to court records, the WING Drug Task Force and other law enforcement agencies organized a controlled delivery, where an individual sold one ounce of cocaine to Worthman.

After the transaction was completed, members of WING and the Scottsbluff Police Department contacted Worthman and arrested him. During the arrest, they recovered the controlled substance from Worthman’s vehicle, and seized some of his belongings including his cell phone, his truck, keys to his home, office and vehicles, his prescription sunglasses and his checkbook.

According to court records, Worthman told law enforcement in a later interview, “he believed he would be purchasing at least two eight balls (approximately 7 grams) of cocaine” from the individual. He also, “admitted to receiving cocaine in the past in exchange for legal services, as well as purchasing and using the illegal substance himself.”

Worthman was booked into the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center and charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver, a class 1D felony. His bond was set at 10 percent of $150,000, and he bonded out the morning of Jan. 8.

Nebraska Assistant Attorney General Douglas L. Warner was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case.

At a hearing on Jan. 9 in Scotts Bluff County, Judge Randin Roland ordered Worthman’s phone to be returned to him by the state, according to court records. Judge Roland noted in the order that, “irreparable harm will be caused to (Worthman’s) clients in matters unrelated to this case by the unrestricted search and review of data stored on (Worthman’s) cell phone.” In the order, he noted that the matter will be reviewed at a later hearing to “determine appropriate arrangements for the lawful search of (Worthman’s) phone in a manner that protects the attorney-client privileges held by (Worthman’s) clients in unrelated matters.

On Friday, a hearing is set to take place to discuss a motion to release other seized evidence in the case, as well as a motion for bond review.

Worthman took office as the Box Butte County Public Defender in 2014, and was re-elected to the position in 2018. He has been practicing law since 1994, and has provided his services as a private attorney, as well.

Box Butte County Clerk Judy Messersmith said that, as of press time, the Box Butte County Commissioners did not have any items on their agenda at the next meeting concerning Worthman.

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