Local Dairyman Could Face Jail Time
The Capital Press reports today that a judge has postponed sentencing for Mike Vierstra, a Twin Falls dairyman convicted of violating the Clean Water Act for discharging wastewater into a nearby canal without a permit. In its online edition the Capital Press reports that US District Judge Ronald Bush has moved sentencing to Aug. 3. The case is so complex the judge said he wanted more time to study the issues involved, according to Vierstra's attorney Allen Ellis. The two-hour hearing on July 19 included testimony by Vierstra and a dairy inspector from Idaho State Department of Ag. In its sentencing memorandum, the government requested a sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for the violation, which occurred on or about June 1, 2009. Ellis said the recommendation is "unbelievable," especially since his client already paid a $21,000 fine in a 2010 settlement with EPA. The incident involved one event of discharge into the Low Line Canal with no adverse impact on ecology or wildlife according to Ellis. U.S. Attorney George Breitsameter said the jail time is justified by law because Vierstra didn't have a permit to discharge, he has a history of regulatory offenses, and he lied in trial testimony, obstructing the proceeding. The judge could adjust the sentencing based on the nature and quality of the discharge. According to court documents Ellis argued the impact of the discharge was not measurable and there is no evidence that Vierstra obstructed justice. Ellis also pointed out Vierstra had been acquitted of two other counts of discharge in the same case by a jury in March and has no criminal history. According to Ellis, "The judge indicated he may or may not impose incarceration. The judge also indicated he might consider some kind of house detention.