It’s still unknown if the 17-year-old from Leigh charged with sexual assault in Stanton County will be tried as an adult or juvenile.
Gabriel Safty appeared in Stanton County District Court on Tuesday morning, where Judge Mark Johnson will determine if his case is moved to juvenile court. During Tuesday’s hearing, Johnson received 14 exhibits of evidence — including video of Safty allegedly admitting to the April 21 assault and DNA evidence linking him to the crime.
Stanton County Attorney Bert Lammli said Safty should be tried as an adult for protection of the public. Lammli said if Safty is convicted as a juvenile, he will not be placed on sex offender registry, which he said was the case with Safty’s previous adjudication. Evidence presented Tuesday included recently unsealed documents of Safty’s sexual assault of a 6-year-old female in 2018.
“Neighbors would have been alerted someone like this as neighbors in rural Stanton County,” Lammli said. “Protection of the public is big. This was a violent act, your honor.”
Safty appeared in Stanton County District Court with his attorney, Brad Ewalt, and his parents.
Lammli called two witnesses — Crystal Hestekind, juvenile probation supervisor of district 7, and Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger.
Hestekind confirmed that Safty had received treatment for an earlier incident after being adjudicated of the previous sexual assault. Lammli asked the witness what would happen when Safty reaches his 19th birthday.
“The case closes,” she said.
Lammli responded, “No more probation?”
“No,” she replied.
During cross examination, Ewalt asked if Safty — who will turn 19 in April 2024 — potentially could have the same treatment regardless if it was a juvenile or adult. Hestiand said it would be similar, however, the wait time for treatment varies.
“Wouldn’t he have 1 year and 10 months for treatment?” Ewalt asked.
Hestiand said with just 80 beds available at the facility — and the next opening Aug. 1 — the timeline is difficult to narrow down, but “depends on how soon adjudication would occur.”
Sheriff Unger was called as witness to confirm the exhibits involving evidence, including body cam footage from interviews with the sexual assault nurse who collected the evidence. Unger testified that the victim received a shot and was prescribed four medications, including one for an STD.
Ewalt asked Unger about Safty’s early release from treatment with his previous sexual assault.
“So he did well?” Ewalt asked.
Unger replied, “I can’t say that. I can say he was released early.”
Safty’s attorney offered no verbal argument during the hearing and requested 14 days to submit a written argument. Judge Johnson gave Ewalt until July 15 and Lammli until July 25 to respond.
“Then I’ll make a decision,” Johnson said.
Safety remains in custody on 10 percent of a $500,000 bond. He’s charged with first degree sexual assault, use of a weapon to commit a felony, burglary and theft.
According to the Stanton County Sheriff’s office, on April 21 just after midnight, they were notified of a break-in and sexual assault that had just occurred at a rural residence in southern Stanton County north of Leigh.
The report was that a male armed with a handgun had broken into the residence and sexually assaulted the female after tying her up and threatening to shoot her. After the attack the male stole the victim’s SUV and fled the area toward Hwy 32.
Within 10 minutes the vehicle was observed by the Sheriff’s office traveling east on Hwy 32 near the junction of Hwy 32 and 15. The vehicle was followed into Cuming County until a second unit was present and at that time emergency lights were activated and then the vehicle failed to stop and continued east as a pursuit was initiated and about two miles west of West Point, the Cuming County Sheriff’s office deployed a deflation device and the front left tire of the SUV was deflated.
After another half mile the vehicle pulled onto the south shoulder and the lone male suspect fled south into a field through the passenger door leaving the vehicle in gear. A perimeter was set up by the Stanton and Cuming County Sheriff’s office along with the Nebraska State Patrol and at about 2:40 a.m. Safety was taken into custody after he was found hiding on the top of a livestock trailer at a nearby farm residence. A handgun, knife and other items connected to the attack were seized during the arrest.