Deceased Navy Veteran Cleared of Pond-Digging Charges
Russ Chastain 07.17.19
Not long ago, I told our readers about US Navy veteran Joe Robertson, the Montana landowner who was prosecuted, fined $130,000 (by short-changing his Social Security payments), and jailed — for digging ponds on his own property. He served 18 months in Federal prison and was still on parole when he died at age 80 last March.
I also told you his widow was planning to appeal on his behalf. Well, she did… and won. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit court’s judgement in April 2019 “and sent it back to the Ninth Circuit for further review.” On July 10, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reportedly vacated its conviction.
July 10, 2019: Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the conviction of Navy veteran Joe Robertson, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $130,000 in fines after he dug fire-fighting ponds near his home in Montana. Sadly, Joe passed away in March, but his wife, Carri Robertson, continued his legal battle.
‘We are very pleased that the Ninth Circuit agreed that Joe’s convictions should be vacated and very pleased for Carri, who will no longer have a $130,000 federal judgment hanging over her head,’ said Tony Francois, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. ‘It has been an honor to represent Joe and now to be able to complete his vindication on behalf of his wife, Carri.’
Federal regulators said that Robertson polluted a ‘navigable water’ — a small ditch with a trickle of water — when he dug the ponds. The Environmental Protection Agency said the ditch was a federally protected waterway under the Clean Water Act and required a federal permit — even though his home is 40 miles from the nearest navigable waterway.
The same court upheld his conviction two years ago and refused to give him rehearing in 2018.
As part of the ruling, $1,250 stolen from his Social Security payments will be returned to his widow.