BUFFALO — Attorneys on opposing sides of the Tonawanda Coke trial depicted the company’s ethical convictions in two very different ways during closing arguments Tuesday afternoon.
In the first of two lengthy narratives, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Mango portrayed the coke-making facility and its environmental manager, Mark Kamholz, as deceitful polluters.
“To comply or to deceive, that is the question,” Mango began. “Tonawanda Coke and its manager of environmental control faced that question — whether to comply with the regulations that protect the very air we breathe in ... but time and time again, the defendants chose to deceive, not comply, in an attempt to put profit above all else.”
According to Mango, the prohibitive costs of installing environmental protections required by federal law “drove the plant into the deception business.”
Although Tonawanda Coke’s attorney Gregory Linsin had a much different story to tell, he didn’t deny many of the company’s alleged environmental violations. Instead, he argued that the governmental agencies, not Tonawanda Coke, are to blame.
“The truth is in fact that the conduct that is now subject of this indictment was tacitly, if not explicitly, authorized by the Department of Environmental Conservation for years,” Linsin said.
That argument is in line with the defense’s legal strategy, entrapment by estoppel, which requires the defense to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the governmental agencies “seemingly appeared to authorize the conduct.”
If the jury finds that the defense has sufficiently proved entrapment by estoppel, they must then find the defendants not guilty — even if the government has succeeded in proving their case.
But in contrast, Mango said the DEC and Environmental Protection Agency’s potential failure is irrelevant to the trial. He compared the issue to a hypothetical criminal investigation: one in which police officers catch a bank robber after a holdup, and then afterward, discover he was guilty of many more robberies.