By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
The former Keith County chief criminal prosecutor convicted of felony theft will spend 90 days in jail followed by nine months of house arrest, serve 1,200 hours of community service and pay restitution.
John “Blake” Edwards was sentenced Wednesday for stealing funds from the county from 2007 to 2009.
Even though he lost his 2010 re-election bid in Keith County, he found work about 80 miles away in Dundy County as the county attorney, where he continues to work.
Edwards was convicted of a Class 3 Felony for a theft discovered during an annual audit of the county by the Nebraska state auditor’s office for fiscal year 2009-2010. State Auditor Mike Foley told Nebraska Watchdog nearly $19,000 in diversion fees were never remitted to the county treasurer, as required by law.
Foley said Edwards paid himself and his wife, who was his legal assistant, $12,489 without County Board approval, and “donated” $3,726 to a nonprofit club with which he was affiliated from a fund that he kept hidden. Edwards handled the diversion funds through a separate bank account that he didn’t disclose to auditors. After auditors became aware of the account, they demanded all records associated with it, revealing the theft.
Edwards, 50, was sentenced in Keith County District Court. However, he’s still working as a prosecutor. Dundy County hired him in January 2011, after Foley’s audit was out and Edwards was being investigated by the state Highway Patrol.
Edwards didn’t respond to a request for comment, but Dundy County Commissioner Scott Hogeland said Edwards is appealing his conviction, and until that is settled, he still has his law license and will continue as the county prosecutor.
“He’s a good attorney,” Hogeland said, acknowledging that it’s difficult to find a prosecutor in a town of about 1,000 people.
Foley said he’s pleased justice has been served and that Edwards has learned he’s not above the law.
But, he added, “It’s time for the Dundy County Commissioners to wake up and smell the coffee. Mr. Edwards should not be holding public office anywhere.”
Contact Deena Winter at firstname.lastname@example.org
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