A district court judge sentenced a former criminal defense attorney to three years imprisonment on a drug charge Friday.
Judge Richard Birch, an 11th District Court judge assigned to preside over the case, sentenced Jon Worthman, 53, of Gering, to the mandatory minimum on a charge of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, 10 to 27 grams, a Class ID felony.
Worthman’s case involved an unusual set of circumstances. Authorities arrested Worthman on Jan. 7, 2020, after investigators with the WING task force recorded Worthman and an informant exchanging cocaine after Worthman arranged to purchase two eight balls of cocaine.
The informant turned out to be Jeff Lujan, a man with an extensive criminal record, and a client of Worthman’s. Worthman had represented the man in the past and, according to testimony at trial, represented friends and relatives of Lujan. Lujan testified during a bench trial in September that he provided cocaine to Worthman as payment for services. In exchange for drugs, Lujan claimed in his testimony, Worthman told him that he had arranged favors for Lujan and his associates, such as getting charges dismissed or even not filed.
At trial, Worthman’s attorney, Maren Chaloupka, didn’t dispute that the man had been in possession of cocaine, but focused on whether or not he had been distributing cocaine. In her sentencing arguments, she also focused on that, as well as comparing the character of Lujan, who has an extensive criminal record, and Worthman.