A federal court in Louisiana has ordered the U.S. government to pay $1.7 million to a former refinery manager for malicious criminal prosecution by an EPA criminal investigator. Vidrine v. United States, No. 07-1204 (W.D. La. 9/30/11). The lawsuit, filed in 2007 by the former refinery manager under the Federal Tort Claims Act, sought more than $3 million in damages. It alleged that agents of the FBI , EPA, U.S. Marshal Service, U.S. Coast Guard, and Louisiana State Police maliciously and without evidence prosecuted the plaintiff by indicting him on one count of knowingly storing hazardous waste, taking him into custody and then, one month before trial, filing a motion to voluntarily dismiss the indictment.
According to voluminous evidence cited by the court, the lead EPA official on the agency’s investigation lied to obtain the criminal indictment and perjured himself before the grand jury with “omissions, half-truths, overstatements, inflammatory language, misstatements, patent falsehoods and tortured readings of regulations.” The court specifically found that the EPA official had a personal vendetta against the refinery manager. The federal court award included $200,000 for loss of consortium for the refinery manager’s wife, who was also a named plaintiff in the malicious prosecution suit.
According to press reports, the EPA agent who led the investigation pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and perjury on October 3, 2011, in a Louisiana federal court and faces up to 10 years in prison on the obstruction count plus five years on the perjury count. See Greenwire, October 4, 2011.