Motions to Sever, Prevent Evidence Denied

Siefke to have Status Hearing March 11

By SHAUN FRIEDRICHSEN, News Director

In February, Rose Siefke came before District Court Judge Travis O’Gorman with her attorney, Rebecca Chasek filing two motions: one to declare certain evidence as inadmissable, and a motion to sever the charges in the case, making them into separate cases.

In the case, Siefke is charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, a class 1D felony, possession of a controlled substance, a class 4 felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, an infraction.

Deputy County Attorney Jamian Simmons argued that the motion to prevent evidence from being heard, a motion based on Nebraska Rev. Stat. Sec. 27-404, that the evidence should be admissible since it was connected with the case.

The evidence in question was testimony from Henry Moreno, a caseworker who observed Siefke to be in possession of a handgun during a visit to her residence, and testimony from Benjamin Fretwell, who was working on Bomgaar’s in Alliance and sold Siefke .45 caliber rounds on the same date Moreno reported the handgun to law enforcement.

Moreno was called as a witness. He testified that, as a Family Support Worker, he was assigned to Siefke to monitor her status through routine visits. During a home visit on Sept. 14, 2018, Moreno noticed a handgun laying on the counter. He observed Siefke grab the gun, hold it in front of her body as she walked away from him and enter a bedroom.

After conducting a mouth swab, he and Siefke discussed her past, Moreno testified, and cut the visit short. He contacted the Box Butte County Sheriff’s Office to inform them

Siefke was in possession of a firearm. Moreno also said he observed a box of ammunition on a coffee table in the living room.

On cross examination, Chasek asked Moreno if he noticed a roommate living with Siefke. He responded that she had mentioned someone else also living at that location.

After further questions, Fretwell took to the stand, testifying that he sold Siefke ammunition on Sept. 14, 2018, checking her identification before the transaction. Later that day, he contacted law enforcement about the purchase, noting he recognized Siefke’s name from previous criminal reports.

“I didn’t have a good feeling about the sale,” Fretwell said. “I remember an incident in Alliance that happened earlier that she was involved in. I was just playing it safe.”

Law enforcement obtained a search warrant for Siefke’s residence to look for the gun and ammunition. The search yielded a .45 caliber Hi-point pistol and ammunition in multiple locations throughout the house. Law enforcement also located a short-barrel shotgun, which was not functioning.The search warrant was amended to include any drugs and drug paraphernalia after law enforcement located drug-related items. Deputy Marcus Hjersman with the Box Butte County Sheriff’s Office testified that they found, “bongs, hollowed-out light bulbs, scales, baggies used in the sale of drugs, multiple containers of marijuana and multiple baggies with a white powdery substance believed to be methamphetamine.”

During the cross examination of Hjersman, Chasek asked whether it was legal for a convicted felon to purchase ammunition. Hjersman responded that it was federally legal for a felon to purchase ammunition.

After hearing all of the testimony, Simmons argued she anticipated the defense that the firearm belonged to someone other than Siefke.

“I believe this was all part of the course of action. She had knowledge the items were there. She obviously knew there was a handgun in the home because she was buying ammunition for it,” Simmons said.

Chasek argued that the evidence should be inadmissible as a prior bad act, noting it was not illegal for Siefke to purchase ammunition. Judge O’Gorman issued a decision, finding that the evidence presented is relevant to the case and admissible at trial.

On the motion to sever, Simmons argued that the case should stand as a whole since thecharges are related. Chasek argued that not splitting the charges into separate cases would lead to a prejudice against Siefke.

“If the jury hears the evidence on count one (possession of a firearm by a prohibited person), they will learn that she’s a felon and there would be an unfair prejudice against

Ms. Siefke. People in the community think that felons are bad people. You heard testimony today that the clerk (Fretwell) believed her to be dangerous because she is a felon,” Chasek said.

Judge O’Gorman later issued a decision denying the motion to sever, finding that, “the Defendant failed to show prejudice would result.” In the finding, Judge O’Gorman noted that jury members would be instructed that the evidence of Siefke’s prior felony conviction would only be admissible as evidence in the possession of a firearm by a prohibited person charge.

Judge O’Gorman set a status conference in the case for March 11.

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