OMAHA — Settlements have been reached in lawsuits against Nebraska law enforcement officials filed by two men falsely accused of killing a southeast Nebraska couple in 2006, according to an attorney for one of the men.
Attorney Maren Chaloupka, of Scottsbluff, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the settlements were reached Friday night in the lawsuits filed by Matthew Livers and Nicholas Sampson. The settlements came ahead of the trial set to begin Monday in the lawsuits.
Chaloupka, Sampson's attorney, said Sampson will get nearly $1 million, with $515,000 coming from the Cass County Sheriff's Office. The Nebraska State Patrol will pay $375,000, and Douglas County will pay $75,000.
"This case presents an appalling departure from the respect for the Constitution, and individual rights, that most Nebraska law enforcement officers have," Chaloupka said. "The lead investigators for the State Patrol and Cass County decided that making two completely innocent men guilty, and keeping them guilty, was more important than the truth."
Phone messages left Saturday night for attorneys representing Cass County and Douglas County were not immediately returned. Email and phone messages left for the Nebraska Attorney General's Office, which represented the Nebraska State Patrol, also were not immediately returned.
Chaloupka referred questions about Livers' settlement to his attorney, Bob Mullin, of Omaha. Mullin did not immediately return a phone message left at his office Saturday night.
Livers and Sampson were initially charged in the 2006 shotgun slayings of Wayne and Sharmon Stock in their farmhouse in the small town of Murdock. The men spent months in jail before being cleared of murder charges. A Wisconsin pair — 24-year-old Jessica Reid and 26-year-old Gregory Fester II — were eventually convicted and sentenced.
Livers and Sampson sued the Nebraska State Patrol and state investigators and those with Douglas and Cass counties in 2008 and 2007, saying the officials violated their constitutional rights. The lawsuits said they were detained without probable cause and subjected to coercive interrogation that led Livers, who is mentally disabled, to falsely confess. The lawsuits also say officials fabricated evidence and withheld evidence of Livers' recanting of his confession a day after he made it. Livers has said he confessed and implicated Sampson after being interrogated for 11 hours. Livers was the Stocks' nephew.
Sampson and Livers say investigators also tried to manipulate Reid and Fester into implicating them in the murders — including threatening Reid with the death penalty if she didn't and promising leniency if she did.
Chaloupka said her client agreed to the settlement with Douglas County in June and with the Nebraska State Patrol and Cass County and their investigators in early September, but agreed to hold off on finalizing the settlements until Livers' lawsuit went to trial.
"We didn't want the jury to be contaminated" by news of Sampson's settlements, Chaloupka said.
While the trial has been canceled in light of the settlements, lawsuits by both Livers and Sampson are pending against former Douglas County CSI Director David Kofoed, who served time in prison for witness tampering in the Murdock murder case.
While investigating the killings, Kofoed reported that he found a speck of a victim's blood in a car linked to Livers and Sampson. He argued that accidental cross-contamination was to blame for his finding, but prosecutors said Kofoed took DNA evidence and used it to fake a positive test to bolster a case against the two men.
Chaloupka said Kofoed is not represented by attorney in the lawsuits and has not participated in court actions against him in the lawsuits. She and attorneys for Livers have been told to contact the court to discuss how they will finish out the claims against Kofoed, Chaloupka said.
Kofoed could not be reached for comment Saturday night.