Tonawanda News

The City

October 23, 2013

Tonawanda Coke attorneys question sentencing, fines

Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — After months of demands that potential fine money from the Tonawanda Coke sentencing go back to local residents, the company’s defense attorney argued Tuesday that there is no legal basis to name the community as a victim in the case.

During a status conference Tuesday in federal court, attorney Gregory Linsin said that the government’s effort to name “the community as a whole” was a “novel concept not identified in sentencing guidelines.”

In a court document filed in August, the government said it will ask the court to “impose certain community service obligations on defendant Tonawanda Coke to repair the harm caused by the defendants’ crimes.”

The Clean Air Coalition and local governments have also requested that the company fund environmental projects in the area surrounding the River Road plant.

But Tuesday, Linsin said Chief Judge William Skretny should not consider such options.

“There is no legal basis for a community service component in sentencing,” Linsin said, later noting civil suits and enforcement actions already underway.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Mango disagreed.

“The fact that any hazardous materials went into the air, that alone is harm,” he said. “The community as a whole is a victim in this case.”

The discussion took place in front of Skretny almost seven months after a jury found the River Road coke-making facility guilty of violating the Clean Air Act and the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act. Mark Kamholz, the company’s environmental compliance manager, was also found guilty of obstruction of justice, a charge that stems from his actions prior to a 2009 Environmental Protection Agency inspection.

The owner of the facility, J.D. Crane, was not named in the indictment.

The charges carry a maximum of 75 years in prison and more than $200 million dollars in fines. Although the sentencing was initially set for July, it was postponed due to two main issues that were discussed Tuesday. The sentencing has now been set for March 19 at 1 p.m.

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