A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana has ruled the Environmental Protection Agency maliciously prosecuted an oil refinery manager in the late 1990s.
Hubert Vidrine Jr. and his wife Tammy were awarded $1.7 million from U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act for malicious prosecution and loss of consortium.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty issued the 142-page ruling, in a rare finding that holds the federal government responsible for overzealous agents and their conduct.
After an investigation by the EPA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Vidrine was indicted in 1999 for storing hazardous materials while working at the Canal Refining Company, despite no supporting evidence.
The government filed a motion to dismiss the charges in 2003. Keith Phillips, the EPA Agent who spearheaded the investigation, recently pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and perjury and faces up to 15 years in jail.
Doherty found that "Phillips testimony, conduct and documentation illustrate a deliberate patten[sic] of disregard for oaths taken, truth of the matter involved, wholly lacking in intellectual honesty, and exhibiting a deliberate intent to mislead all involved."
The ruling awarded Vidrine $50,000 in lost income, $900,000 in loss of earning capacity, $127,000 in attorneys fees he spent defending himself in the original prosecution, $400,000 in general damages and $200,000 in loss of consortium.
Doherty wrote that that court would have awarded punitive damages but was barred by law to award such damages in a case against the federal government.
Federal Case 6:07-cv-01204