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A jury found retired Lincoln police officer Greg Cody guilty of first-degree sexual assault Friday, a charge that encompassed more than a year’s worth of interactions with a woman he’d first met in the course of his job.

Cody, a 27-year veteran of the Lincoln Police Department who resigned after the 32-year-old woman accused him of assaulting her over a 15-month period, held his head in his hands as the verdict was read shortly after 7 p.m.

Lancaster County District Judge Kevin McManaman set Cody’s sentencing for Aug. 29 and revoked his bond. Cody faces up to 50 years in prison.

Deputies handcuffed the 56-year-old former officer and took him to jail, as distraught family members and his attorney, John Ball, left the courtroom. Ball declined to comment.

Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister issued a statement shortly after the verdict was announced.

“The actions of one person do not define the cornerstones of our department culture, namely, dedicated public service, community partnerships, and fair and impartial policing,” it said. 

The statement said the department fully cooperated with the Nebraska State Patrol after it became aware of the allegations and made changes after an internal review. Those changes included enhancing supervisory oversight and mandating training on ethical interactions for all employees.

The woman has filed a lawsuit against the police department.

The jury deliberated nearly 14 hours, from 4:30 p.m. Thursday until shortly after 7 p.m. Friday before reaching a verdict on the sex-assault charge. 

Prosecutors charged Cody in November 2017, after the divorced mother of two was hospitalized and told authorities Cody had forced her to have sex dozens of times over the previous 15 months.

The jurors had to find that Cody subjected the woman to sexual penetration without her consent sometime within the period of the relationship, but they didn’t need to agree on which incident occurred without her consent.

The woman testified they had dozens of sexual encounters; Cody testified they'd had three.

Cody said the relationship — which began after he met her in the course of his job — was consensual.

In his defense, Ball argued that the woman was a manipulator who lied about being sexually assaulted because she had been hospitalized after getting drunk, didn’t remember what had happened and was worried about her job and losing time with her children.

“How do you sweep all those questions away? A sexual-assault accusation,” Ball said in his closing arguments Thursday. “She throws Cody under the bus and all her problems go magically away. This is the highest level of manipulation. She’s exercising the nuclear option.”

Deputy County Attorney Amy Goodro painted a different picture for jurors: that Cody was the one with the control in the relationship and he’d targeted a vulnerable victim and held that power over her. He repeatedly reminded the woman that he hadn’t put her into emergency protective custody when he’d responded to a call in July 2016 where she had climbed onto a Holmes Lake ballfield backstop, Goodro said.

He told the woman she owed him and that she needed to be a good girl, prosecutors said, and he had ample unsupervised time at his job at LPD and off-duty work at Bryan West Campus to meet with her.

“Mr. Cody abused his power and he abused his authority as a police officer to satisfy his own sexual desires,” Goodro said during closing arguments. "He thought he was above the law, but nobody is above the law."

The trial lasted 10 days, and Cody spent a full day on the stand. 

The evidence in the case included phone calls to Cody the woman recorded with the help of investigators after she’d reported the assaults; and pages of cellphone records that detailed phone conversations and texts between the two.

Ball characterized the text exchanges as a “smoking gun” that detailed the exchanges between two people in a normally developing relationship that would end if one of the parties didn’t want it to continue.

He said the woman initiated contact, including when she was hospitalized and ultimately accused Cody of assault, and called him back when he contacted her after they'd not spoken for months. 

Goodro characterized repeated calls from Cody as evidence of his coercion.

“You have three pages that total about 100 phone calls and only three of them are from (the woman) to Mr. Cody,” Goodro said during closing arguments. “Only three out of a hundred. Tell me where is the give-and-take there? Tell me where is consent there? There is no back-and-forth. This is not a consensual relationship.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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