LINCOLN — A supporter of Johnny Rodgers' request for a pardon said Monday that he can't recall if the Husker football legend told him he used a gun to steal money from a Lincoln gas station in 1970.
On Sunday, The World-Herald published an article about Rodgers' insistence that he was unarmed, despite police records and eyewitness accounts indicating otherwise.
The article referred to a Sept. 25 letter Tom Ash of Lincoln sent to the Nebraska Board of Pardons that said Rodgers used a gun to carry out the crime.
In the letter, Ash, a former World-Herald reporter, described how he interviewed Rodgers about the crime in 1972. Two paragraphs later, Ash wrote, “Johnny went inside (the gas station) with a handgun that did not work.”
On Monday, Ash said he did not directly attribute his statement about the gun to the Rodgers interview. He suggested he may have learned about the gun from police reports or other news accounts.
“I cannot confirm that he told me that,” Ash said. “It was my impression there was a handgun.”
Ash said he wrote a second letter to the Pardons Board to clarify the matter and mailed the letter Monday.
“I do not want my attempted recollection of a conversation more than 40 years ago to be construed as confirmation that a gun was used,” Ash wrote in the second letter.
Rodgers, 62, has strongly denied he told Ash during the interview that he used a gun.
Police arrested Rodgers and two other men a year after an attendant at the Derby gas station said he was robbed of $91.50 at gunpoint. Each pleaded guilty to a felony larceny charge and was sentenced to two years' probation.
After the theft, Rodgers went on to help the Cornhusker football team win two national championships before winning the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 1972.
One of the men convicted of the crime, James Glass, 62, of Omaha, said he saw Rodgers take a pistol from a glove compartment before walking into the gas station.
Rodgers called the statement “a malicious lie.”
Ash said Monday that he hopes the question of whether or not a gun was involved doesn't sink Rogers' pardon request.
“He has done everything he can to clean the slate,” Ash said.
Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning, who both serve on the Pardons Board, declined to comment on Rodgers' pardon request Monday. The third member of the board, Secretary of State John Gale, has said Rodgers makes a strong case for a pardon, even with the new dispute about the gun.
Rodgers' pardon hearing is Nov. 14.