As the bench trial of former Box Butte County Public Defender Jon Worthman continued, more details were revealed about the night of the controlled delivery of cocaine to Worthman by Jeff Lujan, who was working in collaboration with the WING Task Force.
After Maren Chaloupka, Worthman’s attorney, criticized Prosecutor Doug Warner and Investigator Andrew Soucie for not providing details about a proffer agreement signed by Lujan and federal prosecutors, Chaloupka told the court she was weighing the option of asking for a mistrial.
“I just got this proffer letter today,” said Chaloupka. “Investigator Soucie has now testified that he knew about the proffer letter on Jan. 10. Mr. Lujan obviously knew about it. I asked for all documents relating to the use of Mr. Lujan as a corroborating witness, and I hadn’t gotten this agreement. I’m really disappointed I didn’t get this, and I’m wondering what else is out there.
“I’m struggling with whether to ask for a mistrial because I’m concerned with what else is out there,” Chaloupka said. “Especially knowing that there’s federal involvement. I try to be sensitive to the knowledge that there’s a federal investigation going on, but if there’s other stuff out there, I have the right to have it. I have to represent my client. I have to know what else is there. I shouldn’t find out that there is a proffer letter during cross examination of the witness of the stand. That’s not right. I’m very frustrated about that.”
Chaloupka decided to continue with the trial, and officers who were involved with the controlled delivery on Worthman were called to the stand to present testimony about Worthman receiving the cocaine from Lujan.
Each one described their role in the delivery, from measuring out the cocaine used in the exchange to arresting Worthman after the cocaine was delivered. They said the exchange was set to take place at Lujan’s residence after Worthman returned from court in Rushville.
Officers observed a white Dodge pickup driven by Worthman arrive at the residence, and Lujan was given a bag containing the cocaine when he arrived. Lujan entered the passenger side of Worthman’s truck and officers listened to the audio of the exchange, which was played in court on the second day of the trial.
According to the audio of the exchange, after Lujan entered the truck, Worthman discussed the price of the cocaine and the purchase of a gun.
“All I got on me is a hundred bucks, man,” said Worthman. “If he wants five hundey, I don’t have five hundey, but we can figure something out. If he wants to buy an AR, I can get one, but it’s pry going to be like 16 hundey. For me to do that for him, and all of a sudden, it gets used in a (expletive) something, it’s gotta be clean. You know what I mean?”
Worthman offered Lujan $100, and asked what he would receive in exchange. Lujan received the money, and gave Worthman the bag of cocaine. Worthman advised Lujan to be careful after the exchange was made.
“Here’s the other thing,” Worthman said in the audio played in the courtroom. “I know (expletive)’s coming, and whatever, just on all kinds of different fronts. I can’t say exactly what, I just know (expletive)’s coming. You just gotta be real (expletive) careful.”
The pair saw officers approach the vehicle, and Worthman told Lujan to take the cocaine. Lujan exited the vehicle and ran.
Trooper Craig Kumpf with the Nebraska State Patrol testified on the first day of the trial, noting that he arrested Worthman during the incident. He testified to searching Worthman’s vehicle after the arrest. During the search, Kumpf said he located four empty bottles of beer, one open bottle and another unopened bottle of beer. He said when he searched Worthman, his wallet contained more than $300, and noted that the $100 Worthman gave Lujan for the ounce of cocaine was not the street value of the drug.
Kumpf, who interviewed Worthman after the arrest said Worthman believed he was going to receive two eight balls of cocaine from Lujan, or approximately six to seven ounces. Chaloupka asked Kumpf whether Worthman said anything about distributing cocaine in Scotts Bluff County, and Kumpf responded that Worthman indicated he was using the drug with his wife, but did not say where or when.
The bag of cocaine used in the exchange was shown in the courtroom, before a photo of the drug was submitted into evidence. The first day of the trial then came to a close.
On the second day of the trial, Lujan took the stand, providing testimony about his history of dealing drugs and how he came to retain Worthman to represent him. He said he grew up with drug trafficking, and began dealing drugs again within Scotts Bluff County in the past few years. He said in the early years, he was dealing mainly methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana, though in recent years he stuck to mainly methamphetamine and cocaine.
Lujan said he retained Worthman to defend Isaac Palomo in Scotts Bluff County against the charge of possession of one ounce of cocaine. Lujan said he retained Worthman to defend himself in a number of criminal cases. He testified that he gave Worthman cocaine in exchange for some of the services he provided, including giving Worthman cocaine which he allegedly gave to an unnamed Scotts Bluff County prosecutor in exchange for not being charged in a pistol whipping incident.
Lujan also testified that Worthman gave him confidential court documents and assisted with releasing firearms and money that were seized in another case. Chaloupka argued that the documents Worthman provided Lujan were public, and explained that the items that were released were released as part of a plea deal. She asked Lujan if he ever believed that Worthman was scamming him with the alleged deals with the unnamed prosecutor in order to get free cocaine. Lujan responded no.
After more testimony from Lujan, the prosecution rested. Chaloupka called no witnesses but submitted a redacted deposition from the unnamed prosecutor as evidence in the case. The attorneys agreed to submit their written closing arguments to Judge Richard Birch by Nov. 25, after which he will make a ruling on the case.