After deliberating for two days, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict against the president of a local used-oil refinery, successfully capping federal prosecutors' first criminal trial for environmental crimes in Utah.
The jury returned a guilty verdict against Steven M. Self, former president of the now-bankrupt Ekotek, an oil-recovery business at 1628 N. Chicago.The case against Self went to the jury Wednesday afternoon. The 12 jurors returned the guilty verdict at 11 p.m. Thursday after 13 hours of deliberation.
The jury found Self guilty of six of the eight crimes jurors were asked to consider. It concluded Self was not guilty of one charge stemming from an alleged fraudulent mailing and one charge stemming from an allegation that Self dumped grease-contaminated water in the Salt Lake City sewer system.
A federal grand jury indicted Self in May on 12 charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and violations of several environmental laws.
U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene dismissed four counts against Self before trial.
"We think the jurors did the right thing," said Gordon Campbell, chief of the environmental crimes section of the U.S. Attorney's office.
"We are encouraged that the jury was receptive to an environmental case of considerable complexity because we regard environmental matters as a high priority here in the office."
Campbell looked upon the prosecution of Self as a successful trial balloon that prompts him to aggressively seek convictions in similar cases, he said.
Newly appointed U.S. Attorney David Jordan has said the prosecution of environmental crimes will be one of his top priorities.
While jurors deliberated Self's fate, Jordan's staff launched their second environmental crimes case. Gordon S. Bird was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Ronald Boyce Wednesday on two charges that he violated the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Bird is accused of abandoning tons of hazardous waste at a facility in Blanding, Utah during the operation of his business, Xtron. The company specialized in the removal of gallium, a metal semi-conductor material.
If convicted, Bird faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
The convictions against Self centered on allegations that he ordered employees to dump PCB-tainted natural-gas wastes into gas pumps at his service station in Barstow, Calif. Charges stemming from the incident included conspiracy, mail fraud and falsification of records.
The convictions carry potential penalties totaling 26 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
Self will be sentenced before Greene May 6 at 9 a.m. His business partner, Steven Miller, pleaded guilty earlier to charges against him; then went on to testify against Self.
Miller will be sentenced as soon as the probation office finishes its presentence report, Campbell said.