ALLIANCE — An Alliance public defender finds himself at the defense table — this time as a defendant.

The Nebraska State Patrol released Wednesday that investigators with the Western Nebraska Intelligence and Narcotics Group (WING) arrested Jon Worthman, of Gering, in Scottsbluff Tuesday afternoon.

The investigation revealed that Jon Worthman, an attorney based in Alliance, was trading legal fees for cocaine, according to the Nebraska State Patrol. According to Scotts Bluff County Court records, Worthman, 52, has been charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver, not less than 10 grams but not more than 28 grams, a Class ID felony.

An arrest affidavit says that an informant sold about an ounce of cocaine to Worthman on Jan. 7 during a controlled buy. The informant and Worthman discussed the transaction and Worthman allegedly gave the informant money in exchange for the cocaine. The transaction allegedly involved an arrangement for Worthman to get two eight balls, or about 7 grams of cocaine, during the transaction.

After the transaction was complete, investigators with the WING task force and Scottsbluff Police Department arrested Worthman and recovered the cocaine from his vehicle. Police interviewed the man and they obtained evidence that the man had allegedly exchanged cocaine in the past for legal services and purchased and used cocaine himself.

Worthman has served as a public defender in Box Butte County, re-elected to his post in 2018. Worthman had served as a public defender for the county from 2003 to 2009, when he resigned his position, and returned to the post after the previous public defender, Dave Eubanks, was appointed to serve as the Scotts Bluff County Attorney.

Box Butte County Clerk Judy Messersmith indicated that she had no knowledge Worthman’s arrest and county commissioners had not yet scheduled any meeting to discuss any possible replacement of Worthman as the public defender.

Worthman also served a stint as an interim public defender in Dawes County. He had been practicing law since September 1994 and provided legal services as a private attorney including real estate and probate law.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office will prosecute the case as the Scotts Bluff County Attorney’s Office requested the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Worthman’s bond to be released from the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center had been set at $150,000, with a ten percent provision, which he posted and has been released. A court date for Worthman’s first appearance on charges was not yet available in online court records. 

Scottsbluff attorney Maren Chaloupka told the Star-Herald that she will represent Worthman.

“We are going to be vigorously defending these charges,” she said. “There is more to the story than what has been reported so far.”

If Worthman were convicted of the charge, a Class ID felony is punishable by a mandatory minimum of three years imprisonment and up to 50 years imprisonment.

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