In March, I wrote an article for Seeing Red Nebraska discussing how the Lincoln Police Department allegedly uses Brady/Giglio letters–that is, accusations of lying–to intimidate and remove officers it deems politically problematic. This seems to have been a major factor in the mass exodus of police officers from LPD who generally have reputations as reform-minded, conscientious people.
As part of that story I described a misdemeanor case currently working its way through the system, in which Lincoln Assistant City Attorney Rick Tast is facing a first-degree criminal trespass charge related to an incident in May 2021, in which he allegedly illegally entered a rental home owned by his friend, Jeremy Hosek, and scared a teenage boy who awoke to find Tast in his bedroom. Two officers key to the prosecutor’s case have since been disciplined or fired based on what appear to be spurious allegations of lying, which conveniently also makes them useless as witnesses in the case.
In response to that article, for which I interviewed Tast, Tast sent certified letters to Seeing Red Nebraska and my home demanding three “corrections” because, he says, they are “libelous and/or have invaded my privacy.”
We decided to address Tast’s demands in this post in the interest of transparency and because the demand letter is relevant to our original story. We are not addressing the demands because any of these statements are libelous or invaded his privacy. To be clear–the information in the statements comes from publicly available documents and our interview with Tast, which he knew was an interview for a story for SRN because he was informed via email and at the beginning of the phone call. Any claim, then, to invading his privacy–the way a person might by, oh, entering someone’s home unannounced–are unfounded.
So let’s talk about whether these statements were libelous. To be considered libel in Nebraska, a statement has to be 1) false, 2) negligently or maliciously so, and 3) materially damaging. Most importantly, they have to be false.
We will take these out of order. Our original article explained that Oliphant and her supervising officer, Sands, cited Tast. Tast claims this is incorrect and it was Oliphant and Stokey who cited him. Well, really all three were involved. Stokey was present the night of the incident, and he is listed as the secondary officer on the citation Oliphant wrote. And Sands, Oliphant’s supervisor, had been involved in the investigation and had to approve this citation because it was a high profile case involving a member of city government. So Oliphant literally wrote the citation, Stokey was listed as the second reporting officer, and Sands signed off on it. All three were involved. The original article was therefore not incorrect in identifying Oliphant and Sands as citing Tast, even if Tast wants Stokey’s name instead of Sands’s there. At any rate none of this has defamed or damaged Tast in any way.
(Tast also disputes the date of his citation, though he does not demand a correction–and I did ask him about the timeline in our phone conversation. The citation scan in the state system is not dated but was filed in July. I will take his word for it that he was cited in June.)
Okay, next let’s address Tast’s complaint about the statement that he owns the house rented to a man who tried to cannibalize a teenage girl. Tast says he does not own this house.
Dale Bolinger, the nasty ass wannabe child cannibal in question, is on the sex offender registry, which lists his address on South 29th Street. Heidi and Richard W. Tast bought that house in 2008 for $50,000, then in 2012 transferred it for a sale price of zero dollars to HRWT Rentals 3, LLC. HRWT are the initials of the Tasts, and lo and behold, Richard Tast is the company organizer and agent for this and other enumerated HRWT Rentals LLCs in the state of Nebraska. So Tast believes he is owed a correction for “libel and/or invasion of privacy” because he does not own the home, his LLC owns it after he transferred it to that LLC for zero dollars. Yeah, okay, fella.
Oh, speaking of the cannibal house: Tast has litigiously responded to other people who have expressed discomfort about having as a neighbor a dude who wanted to behead, roast, and eat a child.
In February, Tast wrote a litigious email to Jayne Sebby, with the Woods Park Neighborhood Association, blaming her group for damages incurred to the house because, Tast suggested, the neighborhood association had been harassing the man who lived there. Local media had run articles on Bolinger’s release, but still Tast sent an intimidating letter to the admin of a neighborhood Facebook group and put the blame for harassment on the group. Sebby responded obsequiously, assuring him the group did no such thing and that she would remind members to leave the sick fuck (my words, not hers) alone.
Remember, readers! This article is not meant to encourage you to bother the pedophile cannibal whom Tast–oops, I mean “HRWT Rentals 3” is renting to. To be clear, the official position of Seeing Red Nebraska is that we could not give a rat’s ass whether anyone harasses a fucking cannibalistic pedophile, but we are not encouraging you to do so and would not even be talking about it right now were it not for Tast’s silly letter.
So on to Tast’s final complaint, which is with this statement:
“In an interview with Seeing Red Nebraska, Tast admitted he entered the home that evening, but claims he did so in his role as a private lawyer on behalf of his client, Hosek.” Tast says in his letter that a recording of our interview “revealed that at no point did I admit I entered the home.” (Note that Tast is not denying he entered. He is denying admitting he entered in one specific conversation.)
Okay, to be clear here: as far as I can tell, whether Tast entered the home is not in dispute. Court records include a motion by the prosecution addressing Tast’s apparent defense that he had been acting as an attorney for the landlord and was justified in entering the home, which closely resembles what he said in our interview. Furthermore, a source close to the police investigation told Seeing Red Nebraska that Tast admitted that he entered the home and that he said he had been justified in doing so. So in both the police investigation and the court proceedings, whether he entered the home does not seem to be the dispute, but rather whether he had been legally justified in entering.
More importantly, Tast simply did not respond to questions in our conversation as someone would if they had not entered the home. He claimed he and his “client” inspected the property that night and had not only the legal right but possibly the obligation to do so. When I asked him if he had given notice before entering or if he had known anyone would be inside, he never denied entering the property but replied with statements such as “No, not only was there not knowledge that there was nobody inside but–I’m just going to leave it at that. There was no knowledge that anybody was inside.” Or when I said that he seemed to have scared the crap out of these people, and asked if he had considered just apologizing, he said, “There were actions taken afterwards.”
Come on. This is playing games. If someone asked you, “Was there cash in the car you stole?” and you didn’t steal the car, you would simply say, “I didn’t steal the car.”
When SRN received the letter, everyone in our group who had listened to the interview as part of our initial fact-checking process was puzzled by it–the plain interpretation of the conversation was that he had entered the residence. We had in fact taken pains to indicate that this was someone who had appeared to enter without knowing a family was inside because we had wanted to avoid unfairly portraying him as having intentionally sneaked into a minor’s bedroom.
What kind of picture is emerging here? Tast is someone with power locally. He is a lawyer, which confers some systemic power. He is a city attorney, so he wields power as part of city government. He and his LLCs own about a dozen properties in Lincoln, which gives him economic power and power over people who rent from him. And what runs through all these incidents is a profile of someone who seems to throw their weight around inappropriately to get what they want, from allegedly illegally entering the home of a friend’s unwanted tenant to litigiously threatening a neighborhood association. (Incidentally, we can add this quibbling and specious letter to this emerging picture.) Did Tast also use his influence to get one or both officers on his case punished? This is not a good look for a human being, much less a public official.
A couple of SRN contributors initially wondered if the certified letter was an April Fool’s prank because it arrived at our mailbox on April 1 and was not on letterhead. It wasn’t clear whether it was really sent by Tast or in what capacity he was sending it. We tracked the letter and saw that it was mailed around 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30, from 68508, the downtown zip code that would include the main post office and the city/county building where Tast works. We all felt confident it was from Tast but noted that this information, together with his opening salvo pointing to state statute, did not help clarify questions about blurred roles. We decided to add this info as a footnote..