He had been in these very courtrooms, arguing on behalf of men who had committed crimes, big and small.
Tuesday, Jeremy Jorgenson, the former Omaha attorney for serial killer Anthony Garcia, sat in Douglas County Courtroom 501, awaiting his own fate in a misdemeanor child abuse case over a stepson’s broken wrist.
He told a judge that, upon reflection, alcohol was the fuel that sent his life spiraling out of control.
And he suggested that he had kicked that alcohol addiction, mentioning that he has passed three-times-a-week alcohol tests that a juvenile court judge has required as he seeks to reunify with his children.
He talked about his stepson — the 7-year-old who suffered a broken wrist after Jorgenson lifted him by his collar and disciplined him for throwing a toy in Jorgenson’s face as Jorgensen argued with the boy’s mother.
“My first visit with (the boy) will be tomorrow night,” Jorgenson said Tuesday. “He’s very excited about it. I’m very excited about it.”
His attorney, Robb Gage, had noted that a presentence investigation, conducted by probation officials, had recommended that Jorgenson be placed on probation. In fact, Jorgenson seemed so convinced that he would be placed on probation that he suggested that the judge could waive alcohol testing as part of his term because he was being tested through juvenile court.
But there was a small problem with that suggestion: Judge Greg Schatz had not indicated that he would follow any probation recommendation.
In fact, the judge stunned Jorgenson, his wife, Vicki, and Gage by quickly declaring that probation wouldn’t be appropriate in this case.
“Because of the seriousness of these offenses, the court feels that probation is not an option,” Schatz said. “The child broke his arm as a result of the actions of this defendant.”
The judge then sentenced Jorgenson, 44, to 600 days in jail — 300 days each for negligent child abuse and witness tampering. Under state law, which cuts most sentences in half, Jorgenson will spend about 300 days behind bars.
At that, Jorgenson buried his head in his hands. He shot a stunned look at his wife, who batted away tears in the front row.
It would be tempting to call this a fall from grace for Jorgenson, who once represented high-profile defendants such as Garcia.
But the reality is that Jorgenson’s 10-year legal career was riddled with tumult. He was disciplined by the Nebraska Supreme Court three separate times for problems related to contingent fee arrangements; his failure to document continuing education requirements; and for skipping oral arguments in a federal appellate case. He then represented at least three clients after he had been suspended from practicing law.
In turn, he was disbarred Friday. He was ordered behind bars Tuesday.
Jorgenson had faced up to a year in jail or two years of probation on each of four counts. In a plea bargain, the Douglas County Attorney’s Office had reduced two felony child abuse cases to four misdemeanors — two counts of negligent child abuse and two counts of attempted tampering with a witness.
Jorgenson and Gage had made a plea for probation.
But Schatz declined, citing the seriousness of the case. The judge asserted that Jorgenson had encouraged his wife and stepson to lie about what happened as a cover for the broken wrist. At that, Gage interrupted the judge.
“That is not what happened,” Gage said loudly. He said Jorgenson did not “ask anyone to lie.”
“He simply said, ‘We’ve got to get our stories together or we’re going to jail,’ ” Gage said.
Prosecutors gave this account of what happened:
On Feb. 18, 2018, Jorgenson and his wife were at their home near 30th Street and Poppleton Avenue.
The couple were arguing when Vicki Jorgenson’s 7-year-old son came into the room and threw a toy at Jeremy Jorgenson, striking him.
Jorgenson chased after the boy and picked him up by the shirt collar.
The 7-year-old told investigators at Project Harmony — a center that investigates child abuse — that the “defendant got angry, grabbed him by the back of the shirt, held him in the air … making it hard to breathe and then dropped him on the stairs, which resulted in his wrist being broken,” prosecutor Amy Schuchman has said.
Soon after, Vicki Jorgenson came running out of the residence, yelling: “He hurt him. He hurt him.”
Jeremy Jorgenson followed her, saying, “We can’t go to the ER.”
The couple then got into a car to take the boy to an urgent care center.
“While in the motor vehicle … the defendant had told them to get their story straight or he’d go to prison or kill himself,” Schuchman said.
All three told doctors that the boy had fallen while playing with a toy gun. After the doctor visit, Jorgenson and his wife took the boy to a Don & Millie’s restaurant to get a cheeseburger and ice cream, according to court documents.
Tuesday, Gage told the judge that his client could have sought to fight the charges. However, he said, Jorgenson didn’t want to put his stepson through a trial.
“Despite just about everyone around him suggesting that he leave, suggesting that he divorce his (wife), he has chosen his family throughout,” Gage said. “That’s the one thing I see as important to him. He places his family as the most important thing in his life.”
After Schatz imposed his sentence, Gage asked the judge for a bail amount that Jorgenson could pay to remain free while appealing the sentence.
Schatz declined, and ordered Jorgenson to jail.