Oct 18, 5:40 PM EDT

State treasurer seeks guidance in paying Beatrice 6 judgment

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Nebraska's state treasurer has asked for guidance on whether Gage County can borrow money from the state to pay the $28.1 million judgment owed in the Beatrice Six case.

The six people who were wrongfully convicted in the 1985 rape and murder of Beatrice resident Helen Wilson sued Gage County for violating their civil rights. A jury awarded them $28.1 million plus attorneys' fees in July after deciding that the county was responsible for a reckless investigation and manufacturing evidence.

The Beatrice Six spent a combined 75 years in prison until DNA evidence cleared the six and led to an Oklahoma City man who died in 1992.

According to the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, any political subdivision of the state that is ordered to pay a judgment awarded in state court can apply for a loan of "sufficient funds to pay any judgment in its entirety" at the State Treasurer's office. That loan would need to be paid back at one-half of 1 percent interest.

Since it was signed into law a half- century ago, no application for a loan has ever been made to the treasurer.

State treasurer Don Stenberg recently asked the attorney general whether Nebraska is obligated to make a low-interest loan to the county, which hasn't taken any steps to the pay the judgment because the verdict came in federal court, not state court.

The Gage County Board would have been able to pay some of the judgment by raising property taxes, but voted in September to lower its property tax levy.

A spokeswoman said the attorney general will provide an answer on the matter as soon as possible.

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