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ABSURD: 78-Year-Old Navy Veteran Imprisoned, Fined $130K For Digging Ponds Under Obama DOJ


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If you’re an America loving patriot who loves our freedom and honors the men and women who serve in the military to preserve it, this story will make you outraged.

Under Obama, a 78-year-old man named Joe Robertson, who was retired from the Navy, was prosecuted, sent to prison for 18 months beginning in 2016, and fined a whopping $130K…all for digging ponds on his property to fight forest fires.

Robertson and his wife owned a fire fighting business and lived out in rural Montana near a forest prone to wildfires. He dug some small ponds around a water supply to direct the channel so he could more easily fill up his water trucks.

But, the Obama DOJ said this violated the Clean Water Act and prosecuted the poor guy.

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Despite numerous appeals, Robertson served the full sentence and never got the fine lowered before his unexpected death in March of this year.

His wife, Carrie, is still appealing trying to get the fines lowered and her husband’s name cleared, since he owed much of the 130K fine at the time of his passing.

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The Daily Signal has more:

An elderly veteran who ran a business supplying water to fight forest fires was prosecuted by the federal government and sent to prison for digging ponds on his own property, one of his lawyers says.

Joe Robertson, a Navy veteran from Montana, was 78 when he was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $130,000 in restitution through deductions from his Social Security checks.

His crime?

Robertson, whose business supplied water trucks to Montana firefighters, dug a series of small ponds close to his home in 2013 and 2014.  The site was a wooded area near a channel, a foot wide and a foot deep, with two to three garden hoses’ worth of flow, according to court documents. 

The U.S. government prosecuted Robertson for digging in proximity to “navigable waters” without a permit, a violation of the Clean Water Act administered by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Tony Francois, a senior attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit, public interest law firm specializing in property rights, described the events leading up to Robertson’s prosecution during a panel discussion Monday at The Heritage Foundation.

Also on the panel was Kevin Pierce, vice president of Hawkes Co., a Minnesota-based family business that harvests peat for golf course greens. Daren Bakst, Heritage’s senior research fellow for agriculture policy, was moderator of the event, called “Horror Stories of EPA and Corps Overreach under the Clean Water Act.”

Pacific Legal Foundation filed a petition on behalf of Robertson, asking the Supreme Court to review his case, which turns on the definition of “navigable waters.”

The Navy veteran argued that he didn’t violate the Clean Water Act because  
digging the ponds did not discharge any soil to navigable waters, since the trickle in the channel didn’t constitute navigable waters. 

The largest navigable body of water anywhere near the Robertson home is more than 40 miles away, Francois said.

Because Robertson lived in a wooded area that is “increasingly fire prone,” he was “concerned about the safety and vulnerability of his property,” Francois said. He built the ponds “with a view toward being well-prepared should a fire strike.” 

The Supreme Court is expected to decide in April whether it will hear Robertson’s appeal.

Robertson, sentenced in 2016, completed his 18 months behind bars in late 2017. 

He was still on parole for the next 20 months when he died March 18 at age 80 of natural causes, according to his widow.

Pacific Legal Foundation, who represented Robertson and now his widow also gave more insight into the ridiculous case:

Joe Robertson just wanted to protect his property in the Montana woods from the increasing risk of devastating fires. But when Joe built small fire protection ponds and narrow ditch near his land, the federal government criminally prosecuted and convicted him. 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. The 77-year-old Navy veteran was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $130,000, a conviction upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Joe asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his conviction because nobody should have to face prison for incorrectly guessing what the government thinks is navigable. The Supreme Court granted Joe’s petition, vacated the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, and on subsequent consideration, the Ninth Circuit threw out his unconstitutional conviction and reversed the impoverishing fine.

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Joe Robertson lived deep in the Montana woods at the edge of a national forest, an area increasingly prone to destructive, life-threatening fires. The only available water supply to fight fires near his property is the couple of garden hoses of flow in a foot-wide, foot-deep nameless channel that flows through a clearing near his home. Joe and his wife ran a fire fighting support truck business, and he knew that protecting his property depended on a better water supply. So in 2013 and 2014 he dug some small ponds in and around the channel, so that multiple water trucks could fill up.

Then, the EPA showed up and claimed that the foot-wide, foot-deep nameless channel is a federally protected “navigable water,” even though it is more than 40 miles from the nearest river that is actually navigable. EPA said Joe needed permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to dig the ponds. The federal government criminally prosecuted him, and at age 77 he was sent to prison for 18 months and fined $130,000, a conviction upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.



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