By Josh Funk
The Associated Press
PLATTSMOUTH, Neb. — The former chief crime scene investigator of Nebraska's most populous county was sentenced to up to four years in prison Tuesday for planting blood evidence in a 2006 murder investigation.
David Kofoed, 53, was sentenced to between 20 months and 4 years in prison for tampering with evidence in a Cass County case in which two men were wrongly charged in a double murder. The men spent several months in jail before they were cleared.
"Nothing should undermine the confidence in the system," Cass County District Judge Randall Rehmeier said after reading excerpts from letters written by the two men.
Rehmeier, who could have sentenced Kofoed to probation or a maximum of five years in prison, said the seriousness of the crime merited prison.
"I think there is some poetic justice to the sentence," special prosecutor Clarence Mock said, noting that Kofoed must spend 10 months in prison - roughly the combined total that Matthew Livers and Nicholas Sampson spent behind bars - before he is eligible for parole.
Kofoed maintains his innocence and plans to appeal his March conviction.
Kofoed was the commander of Douglas County's CSI unit, one of the state's largest crime labs that handles cases from across Nebraska and some other states.
Prosecutors said Kofoed planted a speck of blood in a car linked to Livers and Nicholas, but Kofoed blamed accidental contamination.
The blood was the only physical evidence that tied the two men to the shotgun slayings of Wayne and Sharmon Stock of rural Murdock, and it helped keep both in jail. A man and woman from Wisconsin eventually pleaded guilty to murdering the couple and are serving life prison terms.
Rehmeier set a $50,000 cash bond Tuesday that could have allowed Kofoed to remain free while he appeals, but defense attorney Steve Lefler said his client couldn't afford it. Kofoed was escorted to jail after the hearing.
Lefler argued for probation, saying Kofoed had been punished enough. He lost his career after the conviction and his house and truck because of the cost to defend himself.
"I'm disappointed that Dave is doing any jail time at all," Lefler said.
Mock said the sentence was appropriate. Livers and Sampson asked the judge to impose a severe sentence.
"The harm Mr. Kofoed committed against me is almost beyond description," Sampson wrote in his letter to the judge.
Mock expects a flood of appeals to be filed challenging cases Kofoed worked on during the past two decades. Douglas County prosecutors said they've reviewed several cases he was involved with and spotted no signs of tampering.
Kofoed had been commander of Douglas County's CSI unit since 2000 before he was fired in March. Sheriff's Department rules prevent anyone with a felony conviction from working there, but Kofoed maintains his innocence and is appealing his firing. He passed a polygraph test about how he handled evidence during an internal department investigation in 2008.
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Kofoed had been on paid leave since April 2009, when he was indicted on related federal charges. He was acquitted on those charges last fall.