Former State Sen. Brenda Council sentenced to 3 years' probation -
Published Friday, December 6, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 2:55 am
Former State Sen. Brenda Council sentenced to 3 years' probation

Former state lawmaker Brenda Council won't spend time in prison but will spend the next three years under court supervision in a case involving gambled campaign funds.

U.S. District Judge Lyle Strom sentenced the former state senator from Omaha to three years' probation Thursday, following the terms of a plea deal Council had reached with federal prosecutors. She also will pay a $500 fine.

Council in September pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge. The plea arrangement called for her to get probation rather than prison.

Council has acknowledged that she used campaign funds to gamble. The wire fraud charge came because she used a debit card at out-of-state casinos. According to the federal charge, she spent more than $63,000 of her campaign funds at casinos over 2 years.

A prosecutor Thursday recommended four years' probation and a $2,000 fine. The federal probation department had advised two years' probation and a $500 fine.

Vince Powers of Lincoln, Council's attorney, told Strom that Council already had sentenced herself.

“She knows the harm she has caused herself, the harm she has caused her family,” said Powers, a longtime trial attorney and chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party.

Council said she never intended to harm anyone. She also said she wanted to express her “sincere gratitude” to her family, friends and supporters.

A number of them sat in the back of the courtroom, including her husband, Otha Council; her brother, former Omaha Police Chief Thomas Warren; and City Councilman Ben Gray and his wife, Freddie Gray, a former Omaha school board member.

Council said she had returned the funds to her campaign. Rightly or wrongly, she said, the situation has given her the opportunity to deal with a problem that she had avoided acknowledging.

“I just want to move on with my life and continue to be of some kind of service to my community,” she said.

Council declined to comment further after the sentencing hearing, other than to reiterate her appreciation for the support she has received.

Powers had a message to those friends and supporters. “It's been a tough time,” he said. “Send her some love.”

Wire fraud is a felony that can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The crime came to light last year when Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and his prosecutors found that Council had failed to report her casino withdrawals on her campaign finance reports.

She pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in the resulting state case and paid a $500 fine. She also said at the time that she was seeking help for gambling problems.

Shortly after pleading to the federal charge, Council agreed to a temporary suspension of her law license. The plea prompted a review of the case by the Nebraska Supreme Court's Counsel for Discipline, which filed a motion seeking the suspension while disciplinary proceedings were underway.

It will be up to the state's high court whether to disbar Council, suspend her law license or take lesser disciplinary action. No decision has been made in the matter.

Amid the gambling controversy, Council lost her bid for re-election to north Omaha's District 11 legislative seat to State Sen. Ernie Chambers.

Council was elected in 2008 after serving on the Omaha school board and the Omaha City Council.

Contact the writer: Julie Anderson    |   402-444-1223

Julie splits her time between K-12 education, covering several area school districts and private schools, and general assignment stories.

Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
Plans for new $16M YMCA in Council Bluffs at 'critical juncture'
Woodmen request would take nearly $40M in valuation from tax rolls
With fixed AC, Fort Calhoun's nuclear station ends brief shutdown
Arrest made in teen's shooting death at Benson's Gallagher Park
Windy day could make driving difficult on east-west roads
Richard Brown steps down as Charles Drew Health Center CEO
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
OPD safety expo set for April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Crew working to disassemble International Nutrition plant
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Section of 50th Street to close for bridge demolition
18-year-old arrested in stolen-car case
U.S. Senate candidate Bart McLeay trails his 3 GOP rivals in fundraising
86-year-old Holdrege man killed in weekend collision
New police gang intervention specialist knows firsthand about getting involved with wrong crowd
Finally. Spring expected to return. No, really: Warmer-than-average weather in forecast
Four, including Omahan, vie for police chief position in Council Bluffs
In TV ad, Shane Osborn says Ben Sasse 'beholden to Washington'
City Council OKs redevelopment plan for north downtown project
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Home alone: When burglar broke in, 12-year-old locked herself in bathroom, called 911
Nancy's Almanac, April 15, 2014: Where did snow, rain fall?
< >
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Breaking Brad: Pothole repair crew gets stuck in a pothole
In East Lansing, Mich., a pothole repair crew got stuck inside a pothole. How did this not happen in Omaha?
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: What do the moon, Colorado senators have in common?
How about that "blood red" moon Monday? It was as red as the eyes of a Colorado legislator.
Breaking Brad: Hey, Republicans, are you ready to be audited?
A quick list of audit red flags: 3) You fail to sign your return. 2) You fail to report income. 1) You are a registered Republican.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »