Man, 21, gets jail time for disorderly house
Lincoln Journal Star | March 19, 2006
BY LORI PILGER
Mike Herchenbach was sure he would get a fine. He’d pay a couple hundred dollars, like his roommates, and go on with his life, even though he wasn’t at the party that got out of hand at his rental house. After all, his name was on the lease.
But what he didn’t expect, and hardly believed, was what Lancaster County Court Judge Gale Pokorny had in mind as his punishment for maintaining a disorderly house last Oct. 2.
Herchenbach remembered his attorney from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln reaching for a work-release form, which would get him out of jail so he could work while serving his sentence.
He didn’t need it. It’s only a weekend, he remembered saying.
But Pokorny didn’t say three days in jail. He said 30.
Two weeks after being sentenced to the term on March 3, Herchenbach, who is studying business at Southeast Community College, sat in a blue plastic chair in the visiting room at the Lancaster Correctional Facility.
Frustrated by the experience, he talks to people serving seven- to 10-day sentences for driving drunk. He doesn’t think it’s right.
“I think Pokorny wanted to make an example of someone, and I just happened to be in the courtroom on the wrong day I think, which sucks,” Herchenbach said.
He said he was at his parents’ home in Lindsay in October when Lincoln police went to the house he shares with Mike Ternus and Ken Jensen at 1518 S.W. 15th St. and found music blaring from the garage and 170 or so people drinking beer. When the cops came, they dropped their beer cups and ran.
About a month later, police pulled over Herchenbach for speeding; the officer arrested him on charges related to the party.
He said his name was on the lease, so he pleaded no contest. One of the charges was dismissed.
His roommates both got fines, and he thought he would, too.
In a 2½ page sentencing order, Pokorny went through, reason by reason, “why courts need to take a harder look at this type of case and Mr. Herchenbach.”
“Reason #1. People can die at these parties,” he wrote.
Pokorny said young people who come to college in Lincoln often make bad choices when presented with unlimited beer and liquor. It’s not uncommon for police to find people passed out at parties with near-lethal blood alcohol levels, he said.
“Reason #2. People can die at these parties.”
Pokorny alluded to Jenna Cooper, the NU soccer player shot and killed at a party almost two years ago. Young men cruise neighborhoods looking for college parties and walk in, uninvited, helping themselves to food and drinks and anything else lying around. Asked to leave, they often get violent, he said.
Pokorny said parties tear at the fabric of some of Lincoln’s oldest and best neighborhoods, “destroying the solid, quiet sense of community that has made our city what it is.”
They’re also an expensive drain on police resources, he said.
Herchenbach said he didn’t disagree with everything the judge said, like the fact that while police are going out to parties they could be doing more productive things.
“I agree with that,” Herchenbach said, “but that’s also why I’m almost 22 and not having parties.”
Police Chief Tom Casady agreed, too. In a press conference Thursday, he said officers get 1,600 calls a year about parties that are out of control. On an average weekend, they’ll probably get 35 to 50, he said.
“We’re seeing some real significant sentences meted out,” he said, compared to what he’s seen in the past. “This is the kind of outcome we need.”
Not surprisingly, Casady supported the sentence, which he saw as a serious incentive to make sure a party doesn’t get out of control. Parties like the one Oct. 2 are factories for other crimes, like DWI and rape, he said.
Herchenbach, on the other hand, said he doesn’t think what he did or didn’t do deserved 30 days. But he hopes other young people throwing parties take note of what happened to him.
Herchenbach said he didn’t think anyone who lives at his house would have a party any time soon for fear that police would be called. And he doesn’t want any more trouble with the law.
“I hope I never see this place again,” Herchenbach said of the jail.
He gets out Saturday
Last modified March 20, 2006