Supreme Court rules on Esch appeal

February 12, 2013, a jury in Custer County District Court found Trent R. Esch guilty of felony criminal mischief, and use of a deadly weapon to commit felony criminal mischief. His attorney, David Jorgensen, immediately went to work building his case for an appeal. In mid November, 2013, the Nebraska Supreme Court handed down its decision, and last week a part of that original decision came back to the District Court. The Supreme Court found the district court had erred in four areas: (1) failing to sustain Appellant’s motion to dismiss or in the alternative motion for directed verdict (2) allowing a witness to testify as to the value of the damaged vehicle (3) finding that the evidence was sufficient to determine the pecuniary loss at $7,500, and (4) failing to give a proposed jury instruction. Custer County Attorney Steven Bowers explains that while the ruling sounds very complicated, what it actually boils down to is that the appellate court found the district court had failed to properly instruct the jury as to their finding for pecuniary loss on the damaged vehicle. The reason, Bowers explains, that this is so important rests in the fact that the loss must be a certain dollar amount in order to constitute a felony. That dollar amount, however, is only $1,500, an amount Bowers says both sides knew beyond a doubt the damage far exceeded. The hearing in district court last week was just a mandate and progression conference on that part of the appeal which was sent back. Esch did not appear with his attorney, but Jorgensen presented a waiver of jury trial signed by his client. Judge Noakes set the stipulated trial for May 22 at 9:30 a.m., at which time Esch will be present. Bowers says the hearing is mainly a formality and will not have any bearing on the time Esch has been ordered to serve on his conviction. He will be eligible for parole in about four years.