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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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