A 22-year-old Omaha man will serve at least four years in prison for his actions in a suburban gang that authorities say was modeled after “The Sopranos.”
Steven Scott, the first person convicted under a Nebraska law that makes it illegal to coerce someone into gang activity, was sentenced Wednesday to eight to 10 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in four years.
Authorities say his group of former Omaha Westside students, who called themselves the White Rider Cartel or White Rider Clique, first tried to distribute cocaine, then marijuana. Escalating illegal activity led to a hammer attack against Scott's ex-roommate, Samuel Kelley.
A masked man came at Kelley with a hammer, hitting him in the head several times. Kelley identified Scott as his attacker after the mask fell off.
Douglas County District Judge Mark Ashford said he couldn't understand what Scott was thinking at the time of the attack, which led to the charges of second-degree assault, weapon use and the new felony of unlawful recruitment into a gang.
He said he hoped Scott would learn from prison. “You're going to be around people who are real gangsters,” Ashford said. “I hope you can understand how bizarre your conduct was.”
About 15 people — many of them prominent, including former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub — wrote letters on Scott's behalf, saying he deserved a second chance, said Douglas County prosecutor Mike Jensen.
One supporter, Omaha real estate lawyer Steve Olson, attended the sentencing to tell the judge he had known Scott, the stepson of a local doctor, for a long time.
“That's not the Steve I know,” he said. “He's not a danger to the public.”
But family and friends hadn't seen the wannabe gangster side of Scott, Jensen said, and family and community support shouldn't preclude prison time.
“I think he had every opportunity to take a completely different path in life,” the prosecutor said. “But we are not defined by who our parents are.”
About 20 Scott supporters attended the sentencing. As he walked out of the courtroom in handcuffs, one woman said, “Love you, Steven.”
Scott's lawyer, Steve Lefler, said after the hearing that Scott is considering an appeal of the sentence. He also said he believes the gang law unconstitutional and would like to appeal it to the state Supreme Court.
The 2009 gang law makes it a felony for a member to coerce, intimidate, threaten or harm someone in order to recruit someone into a gang or retain them.
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