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United States v. Villegas

ELR Citation: 22 ELR 21027
Nos. No. 89 CR 338, 784 F. Supp. 6/(E.D.N.Y., 12/13/1991)

The court holds that the co-owner of a medical testing laboratory, who had placed vials of blood in a river bulkhead, knowingly discharged pollutants into navigable waters in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA). The court first holds that a person can be a "point source" for purposes of liability under FWPCA §301(a). In defining "point source," Congress was concerned with ensuring that naturally induced, random run-off pollutants would not result in criminal or civil liability under the FWPCA. Nevertheless, the definition of "point source" does not exclude a discharge by a person. Alternatively, the court holds that the rocks forming the bulkhead and the vials fall within the definition of point source. The court next holds that the evidence is insufficient to support the jury's conviction of the laboratory owner for knowing endangerment under FWPCA §309(c)(3). The court states that, at the very least, §309(c)(3) requires that the defendant must have known that imminent danger would result from the discharge. The court finds that the evidence supports a jury finding that the defendant knew the dangers of hepatitis and knew that some of the vials contained hepatitis-infected blood. However, the evidence does not support the conclusion that defendant knew when he disposed of the vials that there was a high probability that he was placing another person in imminent danger of death or serious injury. Finally, the court observes that the range of the sentencing guidelines may be increased because the laboratory owner's conduct was irresponsible and had the potential to cause serious bodily injury.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Andrew J. Maloney
120 Broadway, New York NY 10271
(212) 341-2000

Counsel for Defendant
Vivian Shevitz
130 E. 35th St., New York NY 10016