Navy veteran, Joe Robertson, had been sentenced to 18 months in prison and a $130,000 fine for digging ponds on his Montana property to fight forest fires.
The then 78-year-old was prosecuted by the Obama Justice Department. The 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals affirmed the ruling and confirmed that the $130,000 would be deducted from Robertson’s Social Security checks.
Robertson was denied a rehearing in July 2018.
The 80-year-old died in March of this year, while still on probation for the Clean Water Act conviction.
The Pacific Legal Foundation which represented Robertson is now representing his widowed wife.
The PLF said, “The EPA said the ditch was a federally protected commercial waterway under the Clean Water Act and required a federal permit — even though his land is 40 miles from the nearest navigable waterway,”
“Joe and his wife ran a fire fighting support truck business, and he knew that protecting his property depended on a better water supply,” the PLF said. “So in 2013 and 2014 he dug some small ponds in and around the channel, so that multiple water trucks could fill up.”
We'd like to offer our congratulations to the federal government for imprisoning a 78-year-old Navy veteran for the crime of…
— Pacific Legal 🗡⚖️ (@PacificLegal) March 30, 2019
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Commentary and Opinion from Western Journal:
PLF senior attorney Tony Francois wrote in The Hill that Robertson still owed much of the $130,000 fine at the time of his death.
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The PLF said in a statement following the April 15 ruling that “clearly the Justices felt the Ninth Circuit’s decision was erroneous, or they wouldn’t have granted Joe’s petition, or vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision, after his untimely death.”
“The Supreme Court wants the Ninth Circuit to confirm whether Joe’s estate has a continuing right to challenge the government’s $130,000 fine,” it said. “The fine was bad enough before Joe died, but now the government can enforce it against his heirs.”
The Daily Signal reported the Trump administration has taken steps to withdraw the Obama-era rule and replace it with one that limits the reach of what’s defined as “navigable waters.”