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Lawsuit vowed in fraud case

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The nephew of a 98-year-old Nevada man at the center of a recently dismissed $150,000 check fraud case has told the Daily Mail that he will file a lawsuit seeking monetary damages against Sheldon Mayor Rob Sewell.

Keith Divine, mayor of Lamar and nephew of the alleged victim, John R. Young, said he was sorely disappointed with Vernon County Prosecutor Lynn M. Ewing III's dismissal of the 21 felony charges against Sewell.

"I'm going to have to go at it a different way, but I don't see a reason to stop at this point," Divine said in a phone interview. "I think there is plenty of evidence. Sewell probably doesn't have any money, but I don't care. I'm still going to go after him and others.

"There will be multiple defendants."

Noting that he had met with three attorneys about the case and was in the process of choosing one to file suit, Divine conceded that Ewing could have had trouble proving Sewell had committed criminal acts when cashing more than $150,000 in checks on Young's account at the First National Bank in Nevada in part because the elderly man had given Sewell his power of attorney.

Divine said the former defendant had gained that authority after taking Young to Nevada Regional Medical Center "when John didn't know the way back home."

"Rob just happened to be there," the Lamar mayor said. "There were $312,000 in checks cashed. He got half of John's estate in three years' time."

Sewell had been formally accused of cashing checks ranging in amounts from $61 to $50,000. Like Ewing, Divine said he didn't know what the money was spent for.

Ewing said on Dec. 21 that he had dismissed the charges against Sewell, who has continued in office at Sheldon, in part because Young "is an older gentleman who is not able to remember all the things that happened.

"The folks at First National Bank were all prepared to testify that Mr. Young had authorized those checks," Ewing said. "At the time they were written, Mr. Sewell was operating under a power of attorney given to him by the alleged victim, so there just isn't enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Sewell committed a crime." Referring to Divine, the prosecutor said, "We informed the fellow who made the complaint that he has the possibility of seeking remedy in civil court, where the burden of proof is less.

"The power of attorney was a major complication."

Vernon County Sheriff's Investigator John Randall had reported that Divine and another of Young's nephews, John Divine, had made the allegations.

Ewing said statutes on demonstrating probable cause that a crime has been committed and that a defendant should be taken into custody are much less strict than those necessitating proof beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction in court. "The issue was whether or not Mr. Sewell was operating under any authority," the prosecutor said.

"Probable cause is a much lesser determination than taking it all the way to a trial, where the state has the burden of proof. We were at the initial criminal stage. We don't know what the money was spent for." Sewell and his Nevada attorney, Nicholas Swischer, declined comment following Ewing's announcement.

The case had been pending since Sheriff Ron Peckman and Randall arrested Sewell Aug. 17 and released him on a $5,000 bond Aug. 20. Associate Judge Neal Quitno of the 28th Circuit Court arraigned the 44-year-old defendant Sept. 25.

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