Environment Convictions for April 2014

Number Latest Month 34
Percent Change from previous month 13.3
Percent Change from 1 year ago -1.6
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -15.6
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) 7.7
Table 1. Criminal Environment Convictions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during April 2014 the government reported 34 new environment convictions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 13.3 percent over the previous month.

The comparisons of the number of defendants convicted for environment-related offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (see Table 1).

When monthly 2014 convictions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of convictions was only slightly down (-1.6%). Convictions over the past year are still much lower than they were five years ago. Overall, the data show that convictions of this type are down 15.6 percent from levels reported in 2009.

Bar and line plot of FYMON

Figure 1. Monthly Trends in Environment Convictions

The decrease from the levels five years ago in environment convictions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of environment convictions of this type recorded on a month-to-month basis. Where a prosecution was initially filed in U.S. Magistrate Court and then transferred to the U.S. District Court, the magistrate filing date was used since this provides an earlier indicator of actual trends. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. The one and five-year rates of change in Table 1 and in the sections that follow are all based upon this six-month moving average. To view trends year-by-year rather than month-by-month, see TRAC's annual report series for a broader picture.

Within the broad category of environment, cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.

Case types within environment are

  • Illegal Discharge of Toxic, Hazardous or Carcinogenic Waste

  • Wildlife Protection

  • Marine Resources

  • Environmental Crime

The largest number of convictions of these matters in April 2014 was for "Environ-Wildlife Protection", accounting for 55.9 percent of convictions. Convictions were also filed for "Environ-Environmental Crimes" (38.2%), " Environ-Marine Resources" (5.9%). See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for environment convictions in April 2014 was Interior accounting for 65 percent of convictions. Other agencies with substantial numbers of environment convictions were: EPA (24% ), Justice Other (6%), DHS (3%), Local (3%). See Figure 3.

Pie chart of progcatlabel

Figure 2. Specific Types of Convictions
Pie chart of agenrevgrp

Figure 3. Convictions by Investigative Agency

Environment Convictions in U.S. Magistrate Courts

Top Ranked Lead Charges

In April 2014, 9 defendants in environment cases for these matters were filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. These courts handle less serious misdemeanor cases, including what are called "petty offenses." In addition, complaints are sometimes filed in the magistrate courts before an indictment or information is entered. In these cases, the matter starts in the magistrate courts and later moves to the district court where subsequent proceedings take place.

In the magistrate courts in April the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 16 U.S.C Section 668 involving "Bald and golden eagles". This was the lead charge for 55.6 percent of all magistrate convictions in April.

Environment Convictions in U.S. District Courts

In April 2014, 25 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during April there were an additional 0 defendants whose cases moved from the magistrate courts to the U.S. district courts after an indictment or information was filed. The sections which follow cover both sets of cases and therefore cover all matters filed in district court during April.

Top Ranked Lead Charges

Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the convictions of environment matters filed in U.S. District Court during April 2014.

Lead Charge Count Rank  
16 USC 1538 - Endangered Species - Prohibitive acts 5 1 More
16 USC 3372 - Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts 4 2 More
33 USC 1319 - Water Pollution - Enforcement 4 2 More
16 USC 703 - Taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds 3 4 More
18 USC 1001 - Fraud/false statements or entries generally 2 5 More
42 USC 7413 - Air Pollution Prevention and Control - Fed strd 2 5 More
16 USC 668 - Bald and golden eagles 1 7 More
18 USC 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US 1 7 More
33 USC 1311 - Effluent limitations - Water Pollution 1 7 More
33 USC 1908 - Prevention of Pollution from Ships - Penalties 1 7 More
49 USC 5124 - Hazard Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act 1 7 More
Table 2. Top Charges for Convictions

  • "Endangered Species - Prohibitive acts" (Title 16 U.S.C Section 1538) was the most frequent recorded lead charge.

  • Ranked 2nd in frequency were the lead charges "Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts" under Title 16 U.S.C Section 3372 and "Water Pollution - Enforcement" under Title 33 U.S.C Section 1319.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In April 2014 the Justice Department said the government obtained 9.6 environment convictions for every ten million people in the United States.

Understandably, there is great variation in the number of environment convictions in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.

The districts registering the largest number of convictions of this type last month are shown in Table 3.

Judicial District Count Rank  
Cal, C 4 1 More
Fla, S 4 1 More
Ind, N 3 3 More
Cal, E 2 4 More
Wash, W 2 4 More
Cal, S 1 6 More
Colorado 1 6 More
Ind, S 1 6 More
La, E 1 6 More
Mich, E 1 6 More
Miss, S 1 6 More
N Car, W 1 6 More
N Mar Is 1 6 More
S Dakota 1 6 More
Wash, E 1 6 More
Table 3. Top 10 Districts

  • The Central District of California (Los Angeles) and Southern District of Florida (Miami) — with 4 convictions — were the most active during April 2014.

  • Northern District of Indiana (South Bend) is now ranking 3rd.

Top Ranked District Judges

At any one time, there are about 680 federal District Court judges working in the United States. The judges recorded with the largest number of new environment crime cases resulting in convictions of this type during April 2014 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
McDermott, John E. Cal, C 2 1 More
Martinez, Jose E. Fla, S 2 1 More
Nuechterlein, Christopher A. Ind, N 2 1 More
Settle, Benjamin Hale Wash, W 2 1 More
Morrow, Margaret M. Cal, C 1 5 More
Kenton, Victor Cal, C 1 5 More
Bencivengo, Cathy Ann Cal, S 1 5 More
Moore, Raymond Paul Colorado 1 5 More
Graham, Donald L. Fla, S 1 5 More
Marra, Kenneth A. Fla, S 1 5 More
Simon, Philip P. Ind, N 1 5 More
Lawrence, William T. Ind, S 1 5 More
O'Meara, John Corbett Mich, E 1 5 More
Ozerden, Halil Suleyman Miss, S 1 5 More
Cogburn, Max Oliver, Jr. N Car, W 1 5 More
Lange, Roberto Antonio S Dakota 1 5 More
Suko, Lonny R. Wash, E 1 5 More
Table 4. Top Ten Judges

All 17 of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of environment convictions. (Because of ties, there were a total of 17 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judges John E. McDermott in the Central District of California (Los Angeles), Jose E. Martinez in the Southern District of Florida (Miami), Christopher A. Nuechterlein in the Northern District of Indiana (South Bend) and Benjamin Hale Settle in the Western Distri ct of Washington (Seattle) ranked 1st with 2 convicted in environment convictions.

Report Generated: July 3, 2014
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