Tonawanda News

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March 28, 2013

Jury begins Coke deliberation



“He didn’t come to Mr. Cahill and say, ‘what did you do?’” Personius said. 

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Rocky Piaggione argued Kamholz may have been purposely avoiding Cahill, and that Kamholz simply mentioning the valve during the walkthrough is central to the case.

“If Mr. Kamholz didn’t think it was a violation, why did he point it out?” Piaggione said.  

Personius and Piaggione also discussed the defense team’s legal strategy, entrapment by estoppel, which provides that if a governmental agency “seemingly authorized” the environmental violations, the defendants can be found not guilty as a result.

“It isn’t fair to prosecute a company for something they’d been doing for 30 years and thought was OK,” Personius said, calling the trial a “textbook case” for the defense strategy. 

But for the second day in a row, the prosecution countered that argument with a hypothetical example.

“Suppose someone in Buffalo decided to drive around without a license for 20 years,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rocky Piaggione said during his rebuttal arguments. One day, that driver was arrested, Piaggione explained.

And because he had been driving around without a license for 20 years without getting caught, he believed the police approved of the behavior and accused authorities of misleading him. 

“Does that make sense to you?” Piaggione asked the jury.

Piaggione also provided further evidence to support the government’s claim that the defendants are guilty of all 19 counts listed in the indictment. In addition to the counts concerning the valve and the obstruction of justice charge, the plant is also accused of operating two quench towers, used for cooling down the coke, without environmental barriers, and of improperly recycling hazardous waste.

But in his final statement Wednesday before handing the case over to the jury, Piaggione again referenced the defense’s tactic of laying the blame on the DEC, and employed a popular quote: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

“The defendants managed to fool the DEC and the system designed to protect the air we breathe once,” Piaggione said. “But the defendants shouldn’t be allowed to fool the DEC and that system again.” 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150

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