James Fairbanks, who crowed loud and long that he had killed Mattieo Condoluci in May 2020 because Condoluci was on the sex offense registry, has pleaded no contest to second degree murder.
...Fairbanks and his attorney, Steve Lefler, contemplated a self-defense claim up until minutes before the 44-year-old Omaha man pleaded no contest Thursday to second-degree murder and a gun charge. They said Condoluci had charged the armed Fairbanks after he showed up at Condoluci’s house to warn him to stay away from kids.
Prosecutor Brenda Beadle, the chief deputy Douglas County attorney, called the self-defense assertion “comical.” She noted that Condoluci had no idea that a gunman would come to his door the night of May 14 and had not had any prior contact nor conflict with Fairbanks. Beadle and fellow prosecutor Ryan Lindberg suggested that Fairbanks was hunting sex offenders with the rifle he had bought earlier that year.
Before the killing, prosecutors say, Fairbanks:
Googled whether Nebraska’s death row offers a commissary. He researched stories of other men who had killed sex offenders and what their penalties were.
Sought to find out whether a gunshot alert system — Shotspotter — could detect the sounds of shots from inside a home. And he researched legal definitions of second-degree murder vs. self-defense.
Mapped out a path to the home of another sex offender.
The only thing "comical" about this case, is the idea that Fairbanks was defending himself. He announced that he had intended to kill Condoluci in an email to media outlets. You can read the details of the case in my May 19, 2020 blog post, Omaha registrant murdered.
In jailhouse interviews with the press during the spring of 2020, probably after conversations with his defense attorney, Fairbanks tried to turn his story into one of self defense.
Beadle said the killing was planned. She said Omaha police detectives found evidence that Fairbanks had searched for another sex offender, even mapping out a route to his house, before homing in on Condoluci.
Beadle acknowledged that Condoluci, with his prior convictions and his history as an enforcer in motorcycle gangs, was “not the most sympathetic victim.”
“But (Fairbanks) doesn’t get to be the judge, jury and executioner,” she said. “There are a lot of criminals in the world. You don’t get to confront them and then try to claim self-defense. Especially when you do all this research on someone a week before you murder them.”
Fairbanks was able to avoid a possible death penalty by pleading to second degree murder.
Beadle said the plea bargain eliminates any appeals — and any risk that a jury or juror would vote to acquit Fairbanks. It also gives an ample range of possible prison time — 21 years to life — when the judge sentences Fairbanks in July, Beadle said.
Shuffling out of the courtroom in leg irons, Fairbanks told a World-Herald reporter that he regrets “what he put his family through.” Fairbanks has two young sons, and had worked as a paraprofessional in the Omaha Public Schools.
“I have many regrets,” he said.
Does he regret killing Condoluci?
“I do,” he said.
Asked if it was because he had abandoned his own children or because he killed a man, Fairbanks said, “I’ll have to think about it.”
Nebraska legislators carry a large share of the blame for Condoluci's murder because the Legislature is the body that put the registry in place. In 2009, they voted to make names, faces, and addresses easily available to the public--easily available to someone like Fairbanks who wants to hunt for registrants.
The killing of Mattieo Condoluci made it abundantly clear that registrants have been telling the truth: the registry puts registrants and their families at risk.
Does the Legislature regret making it easy for Fairbanks to target his victim?
Given their lack of action in the 2021 legislative session to mitigate the effects of the registry, the answer seems to be clear.
As clear as Fairbanks' lack of remorse.