Friday, January 16, 2009

USA v. Hagerman

Jan 15: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, Case No. 07-3874 and 07-3875. In this on-going legal wrangle [See WIMS 12/8/08 & 9/30/08 ] , a jury convicted Wabash Environmental Technologies (WET) and its president, Derrik Hagerman, on ten counts of making materially false statements in reports that WET was required to file under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1319(c)(4). The judge sentenced Hagerman to 60 months in prison and, along with WET, was ordered to pay $237,680 in restitution to the EPA for the expense of cleaning up pollution caused by them.

Hagerman and WET now argue that the district court erred in admitting into evidence copies of certain electronic spreadsheets that recorded test results that were not charged in the indictment but were in conflict with what WET had reported. The defendants argue that the test results are evidence of prior bad acts that should have been excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b).

The Appeals Court said, "The argument has no merit. When a defendant commits two criminal acts simultaneously but is charged only with one, 'the evidence of the "other" crime [cannot] be disentangled from the evidence of the charged crime,” and
therefore evidence material to prove the charged crime 'may unavoidably reveal' other criminal acts that are not charged. United States v. Taylor, 522 F.3d 731, 734 (7th Cir. 2008). That is the situation here."

Following numerous arguments, Hagerman finally argues that he should not have been given a prison sentence. He says that the damage he caused to the environment could not be quantified, that in his life outside WET he made “considerable” contributions to his community, that his family relies on him for support, and that imprisonment will make paying restitution difficult. The judge considered but rejected these arguments. The Appeals Court said, "There was no abuse of discretion." and affirmed the decision.

Access the complete opinion (
click here). [Please Note: The 7th circuit has a strange temporary web hyperlink nomenclature system. If the previous link does not work click on this link and enter the case number above (click here).]