Nebraska Republicans gathered in Kearney, Neb., for their state convention. They ended up ousting the state party’s leaders. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)
LINCOLN — A former Otoe and Jefferson County prosecutor, who is now a criminal defense attorney based in Lincoln, has been appointed as a special prosecutor to review a police investigation into last summer’s alleged break-in at the Nebraska Republican Party.
Lancaster County District Court Judge Andrew Jacobsen appointed Tim Noerrlinger to the role after Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon and the Lincoln Police Department asked for an outside review of the investigation of the July 9-10 incident.
The current state GOP leaders filed a police report alleging theft of about $1,000 worth of security cameras and digital and physical files.
The incident happened hours after a more populist wing of the state GOP took over the party from a more established wing tied to then-Gov. Pete Ricketts. Many people tied to the old regime resigned, quit or were replaced in the following days.
The new state GOP leadership team hired a private investigator, Tom Nesbitt, who said during a state GOP meeting last month that he disagreed with the Lincoln police investigator’s determination that no crime had been committed. The GOP has paid Nesbitt $9,000 so far.
Many of the items removed, including the cameras, were returned. Nesbitt alleged that not all of the data and files were returned and said the state GOP still lacks passwords to access the security camera footage from that night.
People close to the previous leadership team have said the people who entered the headquarters in July did so to retrieve candidate campaign records, including donors’ personal financial information.
One key legal question Noerrlinger will have to answer is whether those involved were employees of the state party at the time or if they had legal access to the office or property.
Noerrlinger declined Thursday to comment on the case. The order appointing him left the timing of the review open ended. He is to review the report for “potential criminal violations” and prosecute, if the facts lead to it.
State GOP Chairman Eric Underwood also declined to comment.
Noerrlinger, a registered Republican in Otoe County, does not appear to be active in politics. He had made no political donations to state or local races large enough to show up in the databases maintained by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.
As a youngster in 2008, he donated less than $200 to Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission records, giving $111 to President Barack Obama and $50 to former congressional candidate Scott Kleeb, the husband of current Nebraska Democratic Party chair Jane Kleeb.
Nebraska Republicans who have recently spoken with the Nebraska Examiner are split about whether to move forward with the effort to investigate the break-in. Some have started arguing privately that the division risks hurting their party. Others say they want justice served.
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