Ex-worker in Neb. abuse case seeks change of venue

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — A former Beatrice State Developmental Center worker accused of abusing developmentally disabled adults who lived at the center is asking for a change of venue and for a new judge.

Matthew Pangborn’s attorney filed motions Wednesday seeking to move his abuse trial to another county and asking Gage County District Judge Paul Korslund to recuse himself, Beatrice radio station KWBE reported (http://bit.ly/ZX3nuh).

Pangborn was sentenced last October to 15 to 23 years in prison after being convicted in July 2012 of four counts of abuse of a vulnerable adult, one count of attempted abuse, three counts of strangulation and one count of attempted strangulation. He was accused of beating and choking residents when he worked at the Beatrice State Developmental Center in 2011.

But in July, the Nebraska Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Pangborn, saying prosecutors should not have been allowed to submit a chart of Pangborn’s alleged abuses for the jury to use during deliberations.

On Wednesday, Pangborn’s attorney, Brett McArthur of Lincoln, said pre-trial publicity necessitates a change of venue. He also suggested Korslund could be swayed by testimony and evidence from Pangborn’s first trial.

“We would like to start with a clean slate with a judge who has not already passed sentence on Mr. Pangborn,” McArthur said.

Gage County Attorney Roger Harris opposed the motions, saying Pangborn can get a fair trial in Gage County. As for the impartiality of Korslund, Harris said it’s up to the jury to decide Pangborn’s guilt or innocence, not the judge.

Pangborn was one of sixteen employees fired or suspended after an investigation into allegations of abuse. Five workers were charged, but Pangborn was the only one to face trial. The others pleaded to reduced charges.

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Information from: KWBE-AM.

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