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COLUMBUS – A district court status hearing on the charges facing a fired county adult diversion program coordinator regarding missing funds was put off Wednesday afternoon for a couple of weeks so the prosecution could add an additional felony against the 44-year-old Monroe woman.

Platte County District Judge Rachel Daugherty set Traci Nelsen for a new status hearing April 20 in order for Special Prosecutor Joseph Smith to have time to file a fourth felony to the charges facing the defendant.

Nelsen has accused of failing to deposit more than $56,000 in program fees to the county treasurer during a three-year period from 2014-17. She’s been charged with theft-unlawful taking over $5,000, theft by deception over $5,000 and tampering with evidence.

Nelsen was hired by the county attorney’s office as victim/witness coordinator in 2009 and was named the coordinator of the newly-created pretrial adult diversion program in April 2014. She abruptly left her job Aug. 24.

A fourth felony in connection with conduct outside of the county attorney’s office and involving a separate victim will be filed in an amended complaint before the April 20 hearing, Smith said following Wednesday’s brief hearing.

The special prosecutor declined to elaborate on the new charge he plans to file against Nelsen.

After setting the new hearing for April 20, Judge Daugherty said that would likely be the time she would schedule a date for a jury trial in the case.

Last week, the judge rejected a defense motion to suppress evidence, ruling that incriminating statements Nelsen made to local and state authorities last summer would be “admissable’’ at trial.

The judge found that the former coordinator’s right to counsel prior to her arrest was not violated and that a subsequent interview with law enforcement authorities did not elicit statements that were “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

Daugherty wrote in her ruling that during an interview with state auditors Nelsen made no request for counsel and was not in custody.

In a later statement to the Nebraska State Patrol, the judge wrote, Nelsen was in custody, however, she was “advised” of her Miranda rights and “no promises or inducements” were made to the former program coordinator to get her to make the statements.

The theft charges are Class 2A felonies, each punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. The tampering with physical evidence charge is a Class IV felony with a penalty of up to two years in prison, 12 months of post-release supervision and a $10,000 fine.

Nelsen was previously convicted of similar criminal charges in 2003 in Kansas.



Jim Osborn is a news reporter at The Columbus Telegram.

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