Nebraska judge rules against officer’s reinstatement, citing anti-bias policy
Updated: 9:37 p.m. CT Dec 14, 2006
LINCOLN, Neb. - A Lancaster County judge has ruled that a former state trooper fired for joining a group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan should not be reinstated.
The decision by District Court Judge Jeffre Cheuvront vacates an arbitrator's ruling that Trooper Robert Henderson should not have been fired.
The 49-year-old was dismissed in March after patrol officials discovered he had joined a racist group and posted messages on its Web site.
The arbitrator cited a lack of evidence that Henderson treated people differently because of their race while working as a trooper.
The state attorney general's office appealed that decision, and Cheuvront ruled Wednesday in the state's favor.
The judge said Henderson violated the state's public policy against discrimination.
"The patrol has a well-deserved reputation as an institution with the highest integrity, and this ruling confirms the patrol's ability to take actions necessary to maintain the public trust," Attorney General Jon Bruning said after the ruling was announced.
Henderson's lawyer, Vincent Valentino, had said the state has tried to "demonize him beyond belief."
Calls to Valentino's office and home went unanswered Thursday evening.
Henderson told an investigator he joined the Knights Party in June 2004 as a way to vent his frustrations about his separation with his wife. She left him for a Hispanic man.
Henderson posted four messages to the Knights' Web site, according to the investigator's report. The group describes itself as the most active Klan organization in the United States.
Valentino has said the state, instead of firing Henderson, should have found another position for him within the patrol besides a trooper. Henderson's family includes black and Hispanic members, a fact Valentino pointed out when arguing that his client is not racist.
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