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A Lincoln woman who went to prison in 1999 for shooting her abusive husband and later was pardoned now is seeking $500,000 under Nebraska's Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment Act.

Attorney Herb Friedman says Charlene Marie, then Charlene Oldenburg, was wrongfully convicted and served nearly two years in prison for shooting her husband, Kurt Oldenburg, on July 30, 1998.

She shot him once with a .22-caliber handgun when he drunkenly charged at her at the couple's rural Gordon farmhouse.

The bullet struck him in the neck, leaving him partially paralyzed.

Marie, now 66, was charged with first-degree assault, making terroristic threats and use of a weapon. A Sheridan County District Court jury later found her not guilty of assault, but guilty of the gun and threats charges.

After then-District Judge Paul Empson sentenced her to four to 20 years in prison, she appealed, calling the sentences excessive. 

In an April 2001 decision, the Nebraska Court of Appeals agreed and reduced her sentence to two years.

In a dissent, one of the judges said Oldenburg never should have been tried.

"In this case, the terroristic threats statute, which was designed for clearly different circumstances than that in which Charlene found herself, has been used to severely punish a woman who was attempting to defend herself against a drunken, angry and abusive husband," Judge Edward E. Hannon wrote then.

She served nearly three months in prison more before her release July 11, 2001.

Five years later, the Nebraska Pardons Board gave her a full pardon, exonerating her, Friedman said.

In a complaint filed Wednesday in Lancaster County District Court, Friedman sought $500,000 from the state of Nebraska for Marie, the most he could, for damages he said resulted from "wrongful acts by county officials."

He said Marie's wrongful conviction and incarceration "caused her to suffer the loss of her personal privacy, personal liberty, extreme mental and physical anguish, emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, damage to her reputation, loss of earnings, impairment of her earning capacity."

In 2009, the Legislature passed the Nebraska Claims for Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment Act finding that innocent people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes and imprisoned have been uniquely victimized and should have an avenue of redress.

Kurt Oldenburg died in Lincoln in 2015.


Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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