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Former Omaha police officer James Kinsella was sentenced Thursday to 12 months probation for removing and destroying a memory card from a cell phone camera used to record a 2013 arrest in which officers were accused of using excessive force during a towing dispute.
He had pleaded no contest to two counts of obstructing government operations. Judge Peter Bataillon found Kinsella guilty of the misdemeanor charges. Kinsella agreed not to contest to the revocation of his law enforcement certification. Without the certification, Kinsella can no longer serve as a police officer in Nebraska.
Kinsella didn't comment in court or leaving court. His attorney told the judge that loss of his career and pension was punishment enough in asking for probation.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine was disappointed, saying Kinsella should have gotten a jail sentence. Community activist Robert Wagner attended the hearing and said probation sends the wrong message to both the community and other police officers.
The incident involved the arrest of three brothers at 33rd and Seward after police were called about a vehicle with expired license plates. Tensions rose and a rough arrest was caught on camera.
Charges were dismissed Monday against former OPD officer Aaron Von Behren. He was facing one charge of accessory and one count of obstructing government operations.
Regarding those dismissed charges, Kleine said, "We wanted to proceed on Von Behren," but he said they ran into roadblocks on several fronts.
It appears from other officers’ accounts from the day in March 2013 that there wasn't anything even on the memory card Kinsella destroyed. In addition, the internal investigation reports in which a sergeant had been interviewed couldn't be used in court. A third obstacle was it didn't appear officers were going to testify against each other.
Prosecutors said cutting Von Behren free doesn't taint the case. "He lost his job and he was charged," said Kleine. "The fact that we can't proceed is unfortunate, but we ran into roadblocks and that's why we got the department of justice involved."