By Jason Schock
A 20-year-old rural Verdon man last Tuesday (Dec. 3) on his own free will walk out of the Richardson County District Courtroom after 12 of his peers found him “not guilty” on two felony counts.
It took the jury, which was hand-picked by prosecuting and defense attorneys throughout the day Monday, about one hour to find Phillip Doerr, 20, not guilty of making terroristic threats and using of a firearm to commit a felony. The trial started at 9:30 a.m. and, after taking an hour for lunch, wrapped up at 5 p.m. Everyone, including Doerr, headed for home by 6. Doerr walked – and walked tall, vindicated by a verdict he said he knew was coming.
“I figured, with such such a ridiculous case, there was no chance of losing,” he said.
That’s not to suggest the stakes weren’t high: The firearm charge, a Class II Felony, is punishable by up to 50 years in prison.
Doerr, who owns and operates a concrete contracting business, but also does some work in tree and snow removal, as well as housing rentals, was accused of pointing a black pistol at Alex Reed, 20, as the two men allegedly drove separate vehicles on Harlan Street on the afternoon of Friday, June 6. Reed said he turned off the highway, but Doerr then supposedly made chase for an undetermined period of time.
Reed called police to report the alleged incident, but Doerr, who spoke with The Journal last night (Dec. 8), wasn’t arrested at the time and said he turned himself in to the County Attorney’s Office the following Monday only after hearing speculation that he was being sought by authorities.
“The accusations made against me were never investigated before I was charged,” Doerr said. “Nobody called me and not once was I given the opportunity to rebut the accusations. They never asked me about a gun – even at trial no one asked me if I had a gun.”
Greg Ariza and Kale Burdick, attorneys with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, served as special prosecutors in the case.
Doerr, who was represented by Nebraska City-based lawyer Timothy Nelsen, said prosecutors at one time suggested a potential plea bargain (this was the first criminal case tried by a jury in Richardson County District Court in more than three years), but Doerr said he was never open to copping a plea. That certainly would’ve been the less-expensive route.
“This all has cost me about $30,000, but I’d hate to see how much taxpayer money has been wasted. $30,000 for me, but it cost multitudes more to the taxpayers.”
Doerr said he is currently “consulting with my attorneys about future lawsuits.”
“Maybe the police should focus on arresting known criminals instead of persecuting a local business owner,” he said.