Authorities Seize Gelsthorpe’s Property
NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) _ Authorities have seized furniture and other propertly belonging to a Baptist minister to help pay nearly $19,000 in fines stemming from the operation of an unapproved school.
George Clough, an attorney for the Rev. Robert Gelsthorpe, criticized the action and said Thursday he would seek a stay in the sale of any property to allow time for an appeal to be filed with the Nebraska Supreme Court.
″Unreal, just unreal,″ Gelsthorpe said as he and his wife, Jolene, watched movers take couches, chairs, tables and other property from his home to a moving van.
Lincoln County Sheriff Duane Deterding said the items would be kept in storage for four weeks and advertised before being sold.
On Wednesday, District Judge John Murphy ruled Gelsthorpe and his church had been in contempt of court for 95 days and set the amount of fines owed at $19,000. About $598 was collected on the fine last year when Gelsthorpe’s bank account was garnisheed and that will be applied to the total due, said County Attorney Charles Kandt.
The fines stem from a 1983 ruling by Murphy that Gelsthorpe and his North Platte Baptist Church were in contempt of court for violating an order to close the North Platte Christian School. Officials of the school, which is operated in the church, had refused to use state-certified teachers.
Murphy fined the church and Gelsthorpe each $200 for each day the school remained open. The school now is operating legally under a new church-school law.
In April, the Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed an appeal of the contempt citation filed by the church. Kandt filed a motion in September asking the judge to determine the amount of fines owed.
Kandt said he requested an order from the court on Wednesday that would permit authorities to confiscate the property.
″The time has come for collection,″ Kandt said.
Clough called the action Thursday ″just pure maliciousness, or stupidity, or a little bit of both.″
He said Gelsthorpe is entitled to have some property exempted from confiscation.