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Court upholds convictions against Warrenfeltz Co. Inc.

January 14, 2002

Court upholds convictions against Warrenfeltz Co. Inc.



By MARLO BARNHART
marlob@herald-mail.com


Maryland's second-highest court has upheld the December 2000 convictions of a Boonsboro hardware company and its vice president, both found guilty by a Washington County jury of violating Maryland open-burning and dumping laws.

Todd Eugene Easterday, of 11012 Stanley Drive, was placed on probation for three years by Judge Frederick Wright, who presided over the two-day trial. He was fined $5,000 and given a one-year suspended jail sentence.

The firm, Warrenfeltz Co. Inc. in Boonsboro, was ordered to pay $3,000 and court costs.

Testimony at the trial revealed that on Feb. 9, 1999, the remnants of a wooden shed from the Warrenfeltz Co. site in Boonsboro were hauled to Greenbrier Road in at least four trucks and burned.

Easterday was seen by employees of the Air Management Administration of the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Washington County Environmental Health Department at the Greenbrier Road site where the burning was done that day, court records said.

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Easterday testified at trial that he was told he didn't need a permit to burn the lumber.

But Assistant Maryland Attorney General John Lilly II, who handled the prosecution of the case, argued to the jury that Easterday knew he had to have a permit to burn anything but brush generated on the Greenbrier Road property.

"Todd Easterday laughed at the law that day," Lilly told the jury at the December 2000 trial. "This was done to avoid a $35-a-ton tipping fee at the landfill."

In its decision released Thursday, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals disagreed with all three issues raised on appeal.

- The higher court found that Wright was not motivated by "ill will, prejudice or other improper considerations" and did not punish Easterday for pleading not guilty.

To bear that out, the higher court pointed to no jail time, no community service and the imposition of a fine significantly lower than that sought by the state.

- An allegation that the evidence of dumping wasn't sufficient also was rebuffed since the higher court ruled the alternative element of that charge was established, that the dumping was for economic gain/commercial purposes.

The economic gain was defined as the savings of the tipping fee to the firm for taking the debris to the landfill, the higher court ruled.

- Finally, the issue of whether Easterday's actions were attributable to the corporation was raised in the appeal.

The higher court pointed out that while Jacob Easterday was listed as the corporate president at Warrenfeltz, and Jeanette Easterday as secretary-treasurer, it was their son, Todd Easterday, who has run the business on a daily basis since 1983.

A message left on Jeanette Easterday's answering machine wasn't returned. There was no listing for either Jacob or Todd Easterday in the telephone directory.

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