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Former first-grade teacher in OPS sentenced to 50-100 years for sexually assaulting students

Greg Sedlacek sat slumped in a Douglas County courtroom Tuesday, his head bowed, his brow wrinkled, his voice wavering.

As a prosecutor relayed what the former Omaha Public Schools teacher did to six students, ages 6 and 7, it wasn’t hard to picture Sedlacek, 31, seated in a similar position last fall. At his desk in the classroom. Or on the end of a slide. A child in his lap. His hand up a skirt.

But Tuesday, his hands were cuffed — and control of the room was with the judge, not him.

Douglas County District Judge James Gleason wasted no time in sentencing Sedlacek to a term that will result in the Omaha man spending most, if not all, of the rest of his life in prison. The sentence of 50 to 100 years in prison means that Sedlacek must serve, under a state law that requires minimum sentences for sexually assaulting children, 40 years before he is eligible for parole. Absent parole, he would serve 65 years before release.

“We just wanted to make sure he isn’t able to hurt anyone else,” Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said. “This sentence should ensure that.”

The pain caused by Sedlacek’s deviance was evident throughout court. Six students had told authorities that Sedlacek had sexually assaulted them — sometimes in his classroom, other times on the playground.

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In court Tuesday, Sedlacek’s mother sat behind him and wiped away tears while his father balanced a cane between his hands. Sedlacek’s attorney, Marc Delman, said Sedlacek is a good man with a bad problem — a sexual predilection for children.

That attraction to children has followed Sedlacek throughout his adult life. Before working at Fontenelle Elementary School from 2016 until the charges were filed against him in 2018, Sedlacek was a paraprofessional at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. There, behavior such as excessive hugging and tickling of students led to his firing.

He also had joined the Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis in 2013, but was dismissed the next year.

Omaha police said Sedlacek gave them a list of girls he had sexually assaulted. The Red Cloud superintendent has said no children from the reservation school were on that list.

He admitted to sexually assaulting six girls at Fontenelle, 3905 N. 52nd St. The former principal there, Eric Nelson, is awaiting trial on a child abuse charge on allegations that he failed to report Sedlacek’s behavior.

“I have known Greg Sedlacek since he was 4 years old,” Delman said. “Greg is a good person, your honor. He is a religious person. He’s a very devout person.

“What is it that draws people into pedophilia? I have no answer other than it’s a sickness. It’s an illness.”

Asked by Judge Gleason if he had anything to say, Sedlacek responded: “No, your honor, other than I’m so sorry.”

He wept quietly, then thanked his attorney, before being led to prison.

Outside court, the mother of one of Sedlacek’s young victims quietly dabbed away tears.

Prosecutor Molly Keane had described how brazen Sedlacek’s behavior was. Teachers spotted Sedlacek with one of the girls on his lap on the playground, and school surveillance videotape further showed him reaching up a girl’s skirt. That girl and others later told police that Sedlacek routinely had them sit on his lap while he digitally penetrated them.

Interviewed by police, Sedlacek provided some strange rationale for his deviance, at one point blaming a victim, Keane said.

He told police that the fondling “started when one of the children wore dresses without pants, without shorts, without leggings,” Keane said. “As if it was her fault or her family’s fault.

“His behavior has shown that he has a complete inability to control himself,” she said. “He has a propensity to lie to people who could keep him away from children. ... He was given unfettered access to children. He was given trust. He violated all of that.”

The violation is still felt by the girls. Two parents wrote the court, describing how their daughters are in counseling. One has violent outbursts. One sleeps fitfully, sometimes “screaming in the night,” Keane said.

“There is heartbreak,” Keane said, reading from a parent’s letter. “He stole her innocence and left behind a sad, confused and angry little girl struggling to do her best to move beyond what he has done.”

Notable crime news of 2019

Articles
Facebook duped users about phone numbers, face recognition
FTC COMPLAINT

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission plans to allege that Facebook misled users about its handling of their phone numbers as part of a wide-ranging complaint that accompanies a settlement ending the government's privacy probe, according to two people familiar with the matter.

In the complaint, which has not been released, federal regulators take issue with Facebook's earlier implementation of a security feature called two-factor authentication. It allows users to request a one-time password, sent by text message, each time they log onto the social-networking site.

But some advertisers managed to target Facebook users who uploaded those contact details, perhaps without the full knowledge of those who provided them, the two sources said. The misuse of the

phone numbers was first identified in media reports and by academics this year.

The FTC also plans to allege that Facebook had provided insufficient information to roughly 30 million users about their ability to turn off a tool that would identify and offer tag suggestions for photos, the sources added. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity. The facial recognition issue appears to have first been publicized earlier this year by Consumer Reports.

The FTC and Facebook declined to comment.

The two privacy violations are included in a complaint tied to a settlement brokered between the FTC and Facebook, which might be announced Wednesday. The agreement requires Facebook to submit to unprecedented federal oversight of its business practices, as the Post first reported in May, including the creation of a special committee on its board of directors that regularly certifies that the tech giant is handling user data appropriately.

But the inclusion of those two privacy problems in the complaint highlights a critical question facing the commission: how to handle a litany of privacy scandals that came to light during the FTC's probe into Facebook, and whether the FTC will penalize the tech giant for those additional violations.

As part of the settlement, Facebook won't be required to admit guilt, according to three people familiar with the matter. The FTC often allows companies to avoid admitting any wrongdoing as part of its agreements ending investigations. But the move could embolden critics who feel that the agency was not aggressive enough in its negotiations with Facebook.

Google avoided a statement of guilt when it was penalized by the FTC in 2012 for its privacy violations as part of an agreement with the agency that saw the tech giant pay a $22.5 million fine.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department opened a broad antitrust investigation of big technology companies and whether their online platforms have hurt competition, suppressed innovation or otherwise harmed consumers. Specific companies were not named.


Metro
Stothert's proposed Omaha budget prioritizes new library, fire station, police precinct, roadwork

Owners of Omaha homes and businesses might pay more for city government next year, depending on whether their property valuations went up.

Mayor Jean Stothert proposed a 2020 city budget Tuesday that holds the city property tax rate steady, based on an estimated 6.65% increase in city property valuations from the Douglas County assessor.

But that increase is just an average. The impact on individual property owners hinges on the specific valuation change. An earlier analysis of preliminary valuations showed that some hikes were substantial in Douglas County.

Even though the city’s property tax rate would remain the same, at 47.922 cents per $100 of valuation, the city expects to collect about $11.3 million more in property taxes in 2020.

Stothert, who has successfully pushed to cut the city’s property tax rate twice in the past, said the city can’t afford to lower rates this year without sacrificing public safety or letting Omaha’s roads get worse.

The mayor’s budget priorities for 2020 include, among other things, hiring more workers to patch potholes, fix streets, clear ice and snow off roads, and maintain sewers.

The proposal contains a handful of big-ticket items, including a new branch library in southwest Omaha and the costs of opening a fifth police precinct.

Stothert’s 2020 budget would increase general fund spending for city departments by about 2.2%, slower growth than the projected 3.4% increase in city revenues. One way the city saved money was shifting more employees to high-deductible health insurance plans with health savings accounts.

The city also expects a 2.1% increase in sales tax revenues and a 1.7% increase in revenues from the restaurant tax.

Councilwoman Aimee Melton, who represents northwest Omaha, praised the mayor’s efforts to hold the line on spending.

Councilman Pete Festersen, who represents central Omaha, called the mayor’s proposal “a good framework” but said he needed time to go through the budget’s details.

Stothert said she slowed the growth of spending in the 2020 budget, at least in part, because she sees some clouds brewing over the 2021 city budget, including the city’s next contract for trash collection.

That contract, if the City Council hires the bidder favored by the mayor and Public Works, could add $7 million a year to the city’s tab.

One problem: A smaller-than-recent-years surplus carried over from 2018, at $5.7 million. The previous year, the city was able to transfer $11.3 million into the new budget.

Another factor: The city starts paying $1.1 million in 2020 to cover debt on bonds for its $50 million contribution toward the riverfront revitalization. Private donors have pledged $250 million toward the $300 million project that includes renovating the Gene Leahy Mall and Heartland of America Park.

Not reflected in the mayor’s budget is another looming issue: Omaha voters may be asked to approve $200 million in bonds to help the city catch up on street work. The mayor has said the measure could reach the ballot as early as May 2020.

“This was the hardest budget that we have done,” Stothert said of her seventh budget, which she forwarded to the City Council on Tuesday. “It took us longer to balance this out than in the past.”

The mayor is proposing a 4.58% total increase in the general fund budget, to $419.6 million, officials say. But that amount includes $4.6 million the city receives from the company that is in the process of buying the downtown Hilton hotel from the city. Those funds are used to pay the hotel’s debt.

Some budget highlights:

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Omaha Public Library

RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD 

The City of Omaha’s budget includes funding for the new southwest Omaha library near 210th and Q Streets.

One priority in Stothert’s 2020 budget proposal is the city’s library system.

The libraries would receive $15 million in one-time funding to build a long-planned library branch in southwest Omaha, near 210th and Q Streets.

The Millard Library branch, near 132nd and Grover Streets, is one of the system’s busiest. The city included the new library branch in its capital spending plans.

The mayor’s proposal calls for a slight increase to the library’s operating budget, to nearly $16.3 million. It also includes slightly more money for library materials and includes enough funding for the library to continue its work to upgrade broadband speeds, Stothert said.

Omaha Public Works

RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD  

West Center Road construction near 132nd Street this year. The city’s plan for street projects, starting next near, includes work on major thoroughfares like 168th Street and on brick-paved Jones Street in the Old Market.

The Public Works Department is slated to receive about $800,000 less in general funds in the 2020 budget.

But Public Works pays for most of its work outside of the general fund budget. The department expects an increase of more than $62 million in total funding in 2020.

Gas tax funds, sewer fees, the wheel tax and other funding sources should help Public Works add seven new full-time employees to do street maintenance. The new employees would allow the department to add two pothole patching crews and three snow and ice removal crews.

The mayor proposed adding the seven full-time employees after the city called in additional contractors to help with snow and ice removal this winter, as well as with patching potholes in the spring. She said the city might need to bring on contractors in the future, too.

Councilman Vinny Palermo, who represents South Omaha, said he was pleased to see the city recognize that Public Works needs more employees, especially to repair streets. But, he said, more might still be needed.

Sewer maintenance would add eight full-time employees to help the city keep up with maintaining more than 2,000 miles of sewer lines under the mayor’s budget plan.

The city also added $300,000 to its street resurfacing budget. The $12.6 million the city plans to spend should at least keep up with inflation, Finance Director Steve Curtiss said.

And the city plans to add a fall cleanup before the next trash contract begins, modeled after the city’s current spring cleanup that lets people drop off bulky items and waste they can’t throw away at the curb.

The city expects to save money on streetlights next year, because the Omaha Public Power District is installing LED streetlights, which the utility says should cost the city about 5% less a year to run.

Omaha Fire Department

RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD 

Omaha is looking to replace the fire station near 25th and L Streets with a new fire station near 34th and Q Streets.

The city increased the Fire Department’s budget 2.6%, to $110.1 million. That total includes funding for a second set of fire-retardant uniforms to reduce firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens.

It also includes money for new heart monitors for ambulances.

The city’s capital improvement plan also includes a new fire station near 34th and Q Streets. The new station, which could go before the City Council as early as August, would replace an aging fire station near 25th and L Streets, the city says.

Omaha Police Department

RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD 

Omaha will open its fifth police precinct in Elkhorn in September. It is located at 20924 Cumberland Drive in Elkhorn.

The Omaha Police Department could fund up to 902 police officers with its nearly $160 million budget.

Stothert said Police Chief Todd Schmaderer has plans in place to have enough trained officers to fill the new fifth police precinct in Elkhorn, when it opens in September.

The 2020 budget also includes funding to increase the department’s use of DNA testing in police investigations, working with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Omaha Parks Department

RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD 

Omaha is putting up $50 million for the project and will spend $3 million a year for 10-plus years to maintain it. “I think it is going to change our whole downtown,” said Parks Director Brook Bench.

The mayor proposed less funding for the Omaha Parks Department, roughly $500,000 less, because the department doesn’t need to set aside funds for upkeep of the Gene Leahy Mall while it’s under construction.

The same goes for Heartland of America Park and the Lewis & Clark Landing. The Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority has taken over responsibility for the parks during the riverfront redevelopment.

The $22.3 million parks budget also contains some bad news for tree lovers. Stothert said the city is shifting toward removing city park trees at risk of being damaged by the emerald ash borer.

The city had been treating those trees with chemicals. But the advance of the ash borer means the city has decided that the prudent — and cheaper step — is to remove at-risk trees.

The city also plans a miniature golf course and dog park at Miller Park in Minne Lusa and a 5-mile recreational trail and campground at Cunningham Lake Park.

Omaha Planning Department

Many advocates who supported the city’s new rental registry ordinance with mandatory inspections expected the Planning Department to add housing code inspectors right away.

But the mayor’s budget would add only one inspector in 2020, using community development block grant funds. Stothert said there is no need to add more yet.

She said that 10 inspectors is enough to focus on known problem landlords and that the city will be able to add inspectors before mandatory inspections of rental properties start in 2022, she said.

The planning budget also decreases the budget for demolition of troubled properties. Stothert said the city is catching up on a backlog and won’t need as much funding moving forward.

The public hearing on the city budget is set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 13 in the Legislative Chambers of the City-County Building, 1819 Farnam St.

Omaha 2020 recommended budget
17 Omaha-area ice cream places you need to try this summer

Courts
Prosecutors say Omaha woman who's missing and presumed dead had been abused for years

Camisha Hollis and Marvin Young had been together for nearly two decades, but law enforcement officials say abuse and domestic violence plagued the relationship.

Hollis had audio recordings on her phone from 2015 of Marvin Young threatening to kill everyone in the house and photos of her bloody lip, purportedly caused by Young.

She told police in December 2017 that Young had beaten her unconscious six months before — she had woken up in a tub with cold water running.

Hollis also wrote a draft email on July 9, 2017, explaining that if anything happened to her, it was Young who did it.

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In a court hearing Tuesday, Chief Deputy Douglas County Attorney Brenda Beadle pointed to those examples as evidence that she said links Young to Hollis’ disappearance and presumed slaying in April 2018.

Public defender Tom Riley said the evidence presented Tuesday doesn’t prove that a homicide had occurred or that there was any premeditation if Hollis has been killed.

He also questioned why Omaha police arrested Young on a first-degree murder charge more than a year after the incident.

Young has been in custody since April 2, 2018, on child abuse charges after the couple’s daughters were left alone at home that day.

“This is a very weak case and should be dismissed at this point,” Riley said of the murder charge.

But Douglas County Judge John Huber ruled that the evidence pointed to probable cause of first-degree murder.

Hollis’ mother, Martha Hollis, said she spoke to her daughter daily and knew about Young’s controlling, abusive behavior. She had implored Hollis to get out of the relationship.

Hollis had told her mother that she had given Young a deadline of April 1, 2018, to move out of the home. She had asked her landlord if she could keep the lease on the home without Young’s name on it.

Martha Hollis frantically called police about noon April 2, 2018, after she had visited her daughter’s workplace and made numerous calls to her daughter’s cellphone that had gone unanswered. Martha Hollis reported that her daughter was missing and that she believed Hollis was in danger.

KENT SIEVERS/THE WORLD-HERALD 

Flyers for Camisha Hollis at a vigil in April 2018.

Later on April 2, Martha Hollis and authorities went to the couple’s home at 5604 N. 57th Ave. and found their three daughters, ages 10, 8 and 6, home alone on a school day. Officers in the Omaha Police Department’s domestic violence unit began investigating. They later turned the case over to homicide detectives after finding five shell casings, two live bullet rounds and drops of Hollis’ dried blood in the garage and basement.

Omaha police had been at the home just hours before prosecutors think Hollis was killed — about 12:30 a.m. April 2 — because Young had called 911, saying he was worried about being assaulted by Martha Hollis.

Omaha Police Detective Aneta Nelson testified Tuesday that officers spoke to the couple at the front door and didn’t notice any injuries to either Young or Hollis. Nelson said Camisha Hollis didn’t understand why the police were there.

Officers left, Nelson said, when Young said he thought Martha Hollis had gone out the garage door. Upon hearing that story in court, Martha Hollis shook her head.

Camisha Hollis last was seen at her home at 1:57 a.m. April 2, according to a video security camera in the living room that showed Hollis on the couch holding a phone, Nelson said. The camera would take several photos when either the front door or the door to the basement was opened — it wasn’t always recording, she said.

Earlier that night, Young gave the couple’s three daughters sleep-aid medicine, the girls later told authorities. The oldest girl fought to stay awake and heard a loud argument, her mom screaming “Stop” and “Ouch,” and hitting noises.

Young took the girl’s cellphone, which could be used only to call 911. Then he returned and asked the girl if she wanted to go get ice cream. At 2:35 a.m., the two went for a drive of about 45 minutes, but they never stopped to get ice cream, according to cell tower records and the girl’s interview with police, Nelson testified.

At 3:47 a.m., the security camera was turned face down. At 4:07 a.m., an alert shows the basement door had opened, but no images from the home were captured because of the camera’s position. The basement has an access door to the garage, Nelson said.

The GPS on Young’s phone showed that Young left the home about 5:11 a.m. and went to Walnut, Iowa, returned to Omaha and then headed south to Schilling Wildlife Management Area on the Missouri River near Plattsmouth. Hollis’ red 2018 Hyundai Elantra, which prosecutors think Young was driving, was seen entering the wildlife management area just before 1 p.m. and leaving about 1:30 p.m.

Dive teams searched for Hollis’ body in that area three days after Hollis disappeared found nothing. Nelson said further attempts were not feasible because of flooding and difficult river conditions.

MATT DIXON/THE WORLD-HERALD 

Omaha Fire & Rescue workers search for Camisha Hollis’ body on April 5, 2018, at Schilling Wildlife Management Area near Plattsmouth.

Hollis’ body has not been found, but Nelson said a cadaver dog “indicated” a smell of decomposition near the embankment of the Missouri River.

Young next was seen at the 402 Hotel near 24th and Douglas Streets, parking Hollis’ car in a carport, Nelson said. He put Hollis’ purse in the trunk and walked away with a plastic bag. Another hotel surveillance camera showed him walking away from the car, wearing slippers.

Nelson and Detective Wendi Dye found the car while passing by the hotel a few days later. The back seat was soaking wet, and officers recovered evidence of Hollis’ blood from the back seat and a seat belt.

Officers reached Young by phone about 4 p.m. April 2. He said he had been near 24th and Evans Streets looking for Hollis.

In a police interview, Nelson said, Young said Hollis could afford to lose him, but he couldn’t afford to lose her.

Nelson said Hollis had been seeing another man for a few months before she disappeared. About 2:20 a.m. April 2, just minutes after she had been recorded on the living room security camera looking at her phone, her Facebook account showed a search for the other man’s name, Nelson said.

An hour before that, Nelson said, Hollis posted an “upset” emoji on her Facebook page. Friends and family said that was unusual because she shared only public videos and posts, nothing personal. The man Hollis was seeing and other friends reached out to ask what was wrong.

They never got a reply.

Notable crime news of 2019