LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska county that was ordered to pay a $28.1 million legal judgment for sending six innocent people to prison will get $4 million from the state to help pay it off.
Gov. Pete Ricketts signed off on the payment on Tuesday, despite raising objections to a 2019 measure that allowed Gage County to impose a half-cent sales tax without voter approval to pay some of the debt. County supervisors have already raised their property tax levy to the maximum allowed under state law to help cover the cost.
County officials have sought state help ever since a federal judge ordered them in 2018 to pay the wrongfully convicted people, known as the Beatrice Six. The $28.1 million judgment is more than three times the total annual property tax collections in the county.
The six wrongly convicted people collectively spent more than 70 years in prison for a 1985 murder in Beatrice but were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2008.
In a letter to lawmakers, Ricketts said the situation that led to the judgment was “tragic." He said he approved the new law because of the additional economic impact of the pandemic on county residents.