Clean Water Act Violations Result in Prison Sentence for Montana Landowner

DTN writer Todd Neeley reported yesterday that, “A Montana landowner was sentenced on Wednesday to 18 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $130,000 in restitution after a grand jury in April found him guilty on two counts of unauthorized discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States and one count of injury or depredation of United States property.

“Joseph David Robertson, a Basin, Montana, landowner and 77-year-old war veteran, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in Missoula on Wednesday after years of legal battles on a variety of fronts with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A wetlands scientist who offered to provide expert testimony at Robertson’s sentencing, however, told DTN his offer was turned down even though he says he found no evidence of waters of the U.S. on Robertson’s property.”

The DTN article noted that, “Ray Kagel, owner/operator of Kagel Environmental, LLC, based in Idaho, told DTN he visited the property in question and completed an analysis. Kagel is a former Corps of Engineers wetlands scientist.

“‘Federal Judge (Donald) Molloy refused to see our report and refused Mr. Robertson’s polite request for his sole expert witness to speak on his behalf,’ Kagel said to DTN following the verdict.

“‘His (Robertson’s) public defender refused to even speak to me or accept my report. The EPA and DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice) attorney asked the judge to take Joe into custody immediately, and the public defender had no objection when asked by the judge. U.S. marshals handcuffed Joe and escorted him out of the courtroom…'”

Mr. Neeley explained that, “A grand jury indicted Robertson in May 2015 for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act by building nine ponds on two parcels of land near Basin, Montana — one on Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest land and the other on adjacent private property. In filing charges, the U.S. government alleged Robertson had discharged dredged and fill material into a tributary stream and adjacent wetlands, without a federal permit. A jury found Robertson guilty on all charges in April 2016.

“The CWA violation occurred, the government argued, when Robertson built the ponds directly in a stream and wetlands area. Government witnesses provided expert testimony during trial proving a so-called significant nexus existed between Robertson’s property and waters of the U.S.”

The DTN article added that, “Attempts to reach Robertson’s public defender were unsuccessful.

“Kagel told DTN Robertson suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder — something Kagel said government prosecutors recognized in their recommendation for sentencing. Robertson could have faced 15 years in prison.”

This entry was posted in Agriculture Law. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.