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Circuit Court: Spreadsheets OK as evidence

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A Terre Haute company and its president lost an appeal of their convictions and sentence for making materially false statement reports under the Clean Water Act.

In United States of America v. Derrik Hagerman and Wabash Environmental Technologies, LLC, Nos. 07-3874, 07-3875, Derrik Hagerman argued the District Court erred in admitting into evidence copies of certain electronic spreadsheets that recorded test results of waste liquid that weren't charged in indictment. Hagerman believed the test results are evidence of prior bad acts that should have been excluded under Fed. Rule of Evid. 404(b).

Wabash Environmental treated industrial liquid waste and discharged the treated liquid into the Wabash River. The company was required to make monthly reports disclosing the test results of the waste using EPA-approved procedures.

The spreadsheets in question in the appeal cover the same period of time that Hagerman and his company were charged with misrepresenting results of tests. It would have been infeasible to separate out the evidence to eliminate any hint that Hagerman had also falsified other test results, wrote the 7th Circuit in the per curium opinion. The judges also dismissed Hagerman's argument that by admitting those spreadsheets, which showed misconduct not charged in the indictment, the District Court allowed the indictment to be "constructively amended."

The 7th Circuit affirmed the District Court judge's jury instruction on the requirement Hagerman was to certify each report was accurate and complete by using language from Wabash Environmental's discharge permit. Hagerman believed it should be up to the jury to determine whether Wabash Environmental had a system in place to ensure the test results were properly gathered and evaluated.

"The judge's instruction that the testing methods must 'conform to applicable federal regulations' was a correct interpretation of the permit, and the meaning of the permit presented an issue of law that the judge was entitled to determine, rather than leave to the jury," wrote the court.

The 7th Circuit also upheld Hagerman's 60-month prison sentence over Hagerman's arguments that imprisonment will make paying restitution difficult and that he's made considerable contributions to his community.

In September 2008, Hagerman's appeal of the District Court's dismissal of the government's petition for relief after Wabash agreed to start paying restitution and furnish specific financial information was dismissed because Hagerman and Wabash Environmental weren't represented by an attorney. The 7th Circuit ruled owners of limited liability companies must have an attorney to appeal a decision in federal court.

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

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