A special judge in Sarpy County agreed to hear oral arguments next month on former Bellevue Police Chief John Stacey's motion to dismiss his misdemeanor handgun charge.
Stacey, 56, made his first appearance Wednesday in connection with a charge that he provided a handgun several months ago to former Gretna City Administrator Colleen Lawry.
Both Stacey and Lawry were charged in May with a Class I misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine, if convicted.
Stacey has acknowledged the gun was his and said he had lent it to Lawry.
Stacey's attorney, James Martin Davis, submitted a motion to dismiss the charge, arguing that the state law is unconstitutional and substantially infringes on his right to bear arms, which is guaranteed by the Second Amendment and by the Nebraska Constitution.
“You cannot really restrict someone's right to lend or borrow a firearm,” Davis said afterward. “We think the state statute is clearly unconstitutional, and we think the court should find the statute void. We have a pretty good Second Amendment argument.”
Douglas County Judge Susan Bazis has been appointed to handle Stacey's case. Sarpy judges recused themselves from handling Stacey's case because of his longtime law enforcement career.
Deputy Sarpy County Attorney Nicole Hutter said afterward she will submit arguments opposing the motion.
“I have no concern about it,” Hutter said of Stacey's motion. “It will ultimately be up to the court to decide, and the state will respect Judge Bazis's decision, whatever it is.”
Under state law, a person shall not sell, lease, rent or transfer a handgun to someone who doesn't have a certificate except under certain circumstances.
Bazis gave both sides several weeks to submit written arguments and scheduled oral arguments on Davis's motion for July 13.
Meanwhile, Lawry has entered a written not-guilty plea and waived a scheduled appearance Wednesday in Sarpy County Court. She has a pretrial hearing set for June 15, Hutter said.
Davis said he is confident that Stacey will prevail on the handgun gun charge.
“Both he and I know that he is going to be vindicated,” Davis said.
Last week, Stacey resigned as Bellevue police chief. His attorney said he sensed that a prolonged personnel investigation was in the works and that the city would eventually remove him from his position. Stacey had been on paid administrative leave since April 30.
“John put his responsibilities as police chief ahead of his personal life,” Davis said Wednesday.
“Obviously, his whole life has been taken away from him. His whole life was the Bellevue Police Department and the Bellevue Fire Department. Now, he's separated from both. Obviously, he's extremely sad he's no longer connected to the City of Bellevue.”