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Charlie Rogers

Charlie Rogers (center) is escorted by supporters from the Lancaster County Hall of Justice and Law Enforcement Center  Thursday, April 18, 2013, after being sentenced for faking an anti-gay hate crime in Lincoln last summer.

Supporters banded together at Omaha’s Memorial Park in late July and gave Charlie Rogers some $1,800 during a candlelight vigil.

Beth Rigatuso, president of Heartland Pride, organized the Memorial Park vigil, took cash and relayed it into a Union Bank donation account.

Then Rogers’ story unraveled.

She faked the hate crime, carving anti-gay slurs into her skin and staging a crime scene, Lancaster County Judge Gale Pokorny said when he sentenced her a month ago for lying to police.

Pokorny sent Rogers to jail for a week, put her on probation for two years and ordered her to return any money people donated.

“It’s unfortunate how things turned out,” Rigatuso said.

The donation from Heartland Pride, an Omaha-based LGBT advocacy organization, was part of $10,200 people gave to Rogers, said Pokorny, who told Chief Probation Officer Gene Cotter to divvy up the money among donors he could track down and then reimburse the Lincoln Police Department for forensic work.

Leftovers were to go to a police charity.

Rogers handed over the money within a few days of her sentencing, Cotter said.

Since then, he paid $1,265 to nine donors he could identify, $1,725 to police for photos of the crime scene, DNA and blood tests and the expertise of a forensic pathologist who said she thought Rogers, not an attacker, cut herself.

The remaining $7,200 went to Santa Cop, an LPD charity that gives gifts to some 4,000 children each Christmas.

This week, Cotter told Rigatuso he wasn't aware of the Heartland donation but said he'd see if he can redirect $1,800 from Santa Cop to the organization.

Rigatuso said she emailed Cotter proof of Heartland Pride’s donation.

“I just want to do what’s right for the people who have questions about what’s happening to their money.”

Heartland Pride’s board will decide what to do with the money if it is returned, she said.

“I don’t even know if we’re going to get it back,” Rigatuso said.

Said Cotter: “I’m very hopeful we’ll be able to work this thing out and get them made whole. I’m doing everything in my power to work this thing out.”

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Reach Jonathan Edwards at 402-473-7395 or Follow him at


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