I’ve said it before: These are the crimes for which I support the death penalty, because you destroy so much and put so many people at risk:
A former co-owner and officer of Freedom Industries on Monday became the fourth official from the company to avoid being sentenced to any jail time, despite playing a role in the January 2014 chemical spill that contaminated the drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people in the Kanawha Valley and surrounding communities. U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston sentenced William E. Tis, a former Freedom director and secretary, to three years’ probation and ordered Tis to pay a $20,000 fine. Tis had pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of causing an unlawful discharge of refuse matter, and faced a statutory maximum of one year in prison.
The charges related to Freedom’s spill of MCHM and other chemicals into the Elk River just 1.5 miles upstream from West Virginia American Water’s regional drinking water intake.
As he had with three previous Freedom defendants, Johnston said that Tis was “hardly a criminal.” The judge cited the misdemeanor nature of the charge against Tis and what he said was a lack of any previous criminal record. “I never intentionally hurt anyone in my life,” Tis told the judge at Monday’s hearing. “I am sorry this happened.”
Johnston said his sentence for Tis was also based on a motion from Acting U.S. Attorney Carol Casto’s office asking for a lighter sentence based on Tis having provided “substantial assistance” to the government’s investigation of the spill and of two top Freedom officials, Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell.