LINCOLN — An Omaha man who tried to run a mafia-style group patterned after “The Sopranos” failed in his attempt to rough up a Nebraska anti-gang law.
Steven Scott, 23, was convicted by jury in 2011 of second-degree assault and use of a deadly weapon for attacking a former roommate with a hammer. He also became the first person in the state convicted of unlawful membership recruitment into an organization or association that engages in criminal acts — a law passed in 2009 as part of a package targeting gang violence.
Scott argued the gang recruitment law is overly broad and it violated his First Amendment right to free speech and association.
In an opinion released Friday, the high court found no merit to Scott's constitutional challenge.
The law does not penalize Scott for belonging to a gang, but for using coercion and threats to recruit others, the Supreme Court ruled.
Scott and three friends from Westside High School started a gang they called “The Family” that mostly engaged in small-scale drug dealing.
Scott tried to recruit another school friend, Samuel Kelly, to join the gang, telling him he needed to watch episodes of the popular TV series “The Sopranos” to understand the gang's hierarchy. Scott also told Kelly his goal was to grow the gang into a powerful criminal enterprise by recruiting more members.
While Kelly sold marijuana several times on Scott's behalf, he refused to join the gang.
As a result, Scott threatened Kelly with violence. He carried out the threat by striking him several times with a hammer in 2010 when the two crossed paths at a party.
In his appeal, Scott also contended Douglas County District Judge Mark Ashford gave him an excessive sentence of a combined eight to 10 years in prison.
The Supreme Court ruled the term of years was not excessive, but it did find an error in the sentence.
The judge ordered the terms for the weapon charge and the gang recruitment charge could be served at the same time. The high court said, however, that a sentence for use of a deadly weapon, by law, must be served consecutively.
Contact the writer: 402-473-9587, firstname.lastname@example.org