Man sentenced to 90 years for extreme torture over stolen cartel drugs

LINCOLN, NE – A Nebraska man, previously employed as a welder, has been handed a lengthy prison sentence following his involvement in a series of horrific crimes, including kidnapping, torture, and sexual assault. Tanner Danielson, 31, was given a 40 to 50-year sentence for kidnapping and a 30 to 40-year sentence for sexual assault. These sentences were handed down after he pleaded no contest to the charges in June.

Danielson’s criminal activities began after he met members of a drug cartel at a concert in Colorado. Fearing retribution from the cartel for the theft of 50 pounds of marijuana from his home, Danielson took drastic and violent measures. He kidnapped a couple, believing the male to be responsible for the theft. The man was drugged, tortured with a blowtorch, and hung from a forklift, according to local news outlet, the Lincoln Journal Star.

Judge Susan Strong, who presided over the case, described Danielson as “sadistic and evil,” highlighting the extreme cruelty of his actions. While the male victim was restrained, Danielson used the blowtorch to brand the word “thief” into his skin. He then sexually assaulted the female victim, drove the male victim 50 miles out of town, and left him tied to a tree.

The male victim managed to escape and was discovered by a passing driver who alerted the authorities. Responding deputies found him with severe injuries, including two black eyes and burns. He reported that he had been held captive and tortured for 12 hours.

The victims had believed they were meeting Danielson and his accomplice, Austin Widhalm, to purchase cocaine. Widhalm, 28, has also pleaded no contest to charges of assault and false imprisonment. He is yet to be sentenced.

Danielson was apprehended by a U.S. Marshals fugitive task force on August 1, 2022, in Rapid City, South Dakota.