Defendants in Omaha public corruption case being moved to different jails

The four defendants in a public corruption case involving an Omaha city council member and two retired Omaha Police officers are being split up by a judge.
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 5:33 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The latest on the public corruption case involving an Omaha City Council Member and two retired Omaha Police officers: 6 News has learned the defendants are being split up and moved to other county jails.

Here’s how it works: The U.S. Marshal has contracts with hundreds of county jails to house defendants awaiting trial. In Nebraska, the U.S. Marshal has 400 prisoners under its supervision — including the four suspects in this case.

For the last 10 days, Omaha Councilman Vinny Palermo, retired Omaha Police officers Richie Gonzalez and Johnny Palermo, and Jack Olson, chief fundraiser for the Latino Peace Officers Association, have been held in Wahoo at the Saunders County Jail.

Friday, the judge ordered all four of them to remain in custody until trial, which won’t be for months.

Monday, their attorneys are wondering why the U.S. Marshal is moving their clients.

Retired OPD Capt. Richie Gonzalez has been moved to the Saline County Jail in Wilber, Neb. That jail is an hour and a half from the Douglas County Courthouse — a longer drive than Wahoo.

Retired OPD Det. Johnny Palermo has been moved to the Cass County Jail in Plattsmouth. That’s about a 25-minute drive from the Douglas County Courthouse — closer than Wahoo.

Vinny Palermo’s attorney says he’s expecting his client to be moved to Grand Island or Lexington, which are two and three hours away from the Omaha-metro area, respectively.

Randy Paragas tells me the move would seriously hamper him from talking to his clients and going over evidence to prepare for the conspiracy and fraud trial. It seems likely he’ll ask the federal judge to reconsider detention until trial.

U.S. Marshal officials in Omaha tell 6 News it’s not abnormal to move prisoners around since there’s a constant influx of defendants coming in and limited space in county jails.

And there’s another matter on the City Council agenda Tuesday: The council will hold a hearing Tuesday afternoon on whether to permanently strip Vinny Palermo of his duties as vice president. Palermo was temporarily stripped of the role last week.

Palermo’s attorney tells 6 News he talked with Vinny this weekend about this, as well as the recall petition and calls for his resignation. Palermo doesn’t plan to concede anything at this stage and will exercise his legal rights. They won’t be taking part in Tuesday’s hearing, however.

Much of what happens next depends on whether Palermo remains in custody. If so, he’d automatically lose his City Council seat in three months because of unexcused absences.