Opelousas resident Hubert Vidrine’s 15-year battle with the feds over false criminal environmental charges and malicious prosecution ended Friday when Vidrine was awarded $1.67 million in damages from the federal government.
Vidrine sued the government in 2007 on behalf of he and his wife, seven years after he was accused by the feds of illegally storing hazardous waste at the Canal Refinery in Church Point, which Vidrine managed at the time.
As noted in The Independent’s July 20 blog, “When the EPA Swat Team comes a knockin’,” the “hazardous waste” the EPA was in search of more than a decade ago was observed the day before when State Police stopped a truck that was delivering materials to Canal. Field tests showed the materials were questionable, which prompted the EPA to send samples to a laboratory for actual testing:
According to the civil lawsuit Vidrine has since filed against the U.S. government, “subsequent lab reports did not show that Tank 402 contained hazardous waste ... For the following three years, no charges were filed against Canal or any employee of Canal based upon the evidence obtained.”
Throughout the entire investigation, EPA Agent Phillips and FBI agent Ekko Barnhill, who were jointly investigating the case, were having a sexual relationship, according to court filings, one that gave Phillips a reason for needing to travel from Dallas to Lafayette as often as he did.
The United States government eventually dismissed the indictment against Vidrine in September 2003, the night before the trial was set to start and seven years after the raid on Canal took place.
In June, Doherty heard almost three weeks of testimony and referenced upwards of 15,000 case-related documents. At the end of July, Phillips was fired from the EPA after 20 years of employment and indicted on federal charges of obstruction of justice and perjury for lying under oath in an effort to conceal his relationship with Barnhill.
“Neighbors and members of their small community were asking them, again and again, about the indictment and the details of the criminal case,” U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty says in her ruling. “The Vidrines testified many people in their small community just assumed Mr. Vidrine was a criminal, merely because he had been indicted. Both felt genuine humiliation, discomfort and embarrassment. The Vidrines went from being well respected and well liked community leaders to objects of diversion and curiosity. Hubert Vidrine is an independent, hard-working, scrappy, almost stereotypical Cajun gentleman. Mr. Vidrine was stripped of perhaps his most valuable asset, his good name, and the consequence of that may never be fully ameliorated.”
Doherty points out in her ruling that punitive damages cannot be awarded in civil cases against the government. If punitive damages were allowed, she says, they would have been given in this case.
“Keith Phillips, for his own purposes, set out with intent and reckless and callous disregard for anyone’s rights other than his own, and reckless disregard for the processes and power which had been bestowed him, to effectively destroy another man’s life - conduct which cannot go unaddressed, or unrecognized,” Doherty says in her ruling.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a judge must reconsider BP PLC’s arguments that the settlement shouldn’t compensate businesses if their losses can’t be directly traced to the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.
September's $509 million in sales pushed Lafayette Parish's nine-month total to $4.4 billion.
The New Orleans architect behind the 1984 World’s Fair also left his mark on Lafayette.
Fort Worth company's new facility at Lafayette Regional Airport will build helicopters primarily for the export market.
Could River Ranch restaurant be the next star?
Move over Hooters — there’s a new breastaurant coming to town.
Funds will expand Early College Academy from 250 to 1,000 students
Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by 12 this week to 1,775.
The state labor department figures released Friday show the initial claims decreased to 1,850 from the previous week's total of 2,854. For the comparable week a year earlier, there were 4,048.
Get a map to your doctor’s office, check the status of a claim and more with Blue Cross’ new iPhone/Ipad app.
“Shell’s abrupt decision to cancel its North American GTL project just 10 weeks after concluding a multi-year site-selection process is obviously very disappointing news,” LED Secretary Stephen Moret tells Daily Report.
New York Times best-selling author talks Hollywood, the death penalty and the pitfalls of runaway campaign spending.
A majority of the blocks in Proposed Sale 225 are subject to revenue sharing under the Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which provides that the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas share in 37.5 percent of the bonus payments.
President of The Lemoine Company and chairman of the nonprofit overseeing the conversion of the Horse Farm property into Lafayette’s central park will be profiled in the December-January issue.
Leadership Institute of Acadiana and the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce announced the newly-selected Leadership Lafayette class for 2014.
A new statewide poll released before the holiday break shows U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Metairie atop a gubernatorial field dominated by Republicans.
Margaret Trahan elected to serve on UW Worldwide's National Professional Council, and Bryant DeLoach joins MidSouth Bank as commercial lender in Lafayette.
Half of voters surveyed think the coastal damages lawsuit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against 97 oil and gas companies should continue.
The state labor department figures released Monday show the initial claims increased to 2,854 from the previous week's total of 2,363. Initial claims were above the comparable week a year earlier at 2,705.
Nonprofit says Louisiana has a once-in-a-generation opportunity, but is the state ready for it?
In the works for five years, new system reduces cockpit workload by 60 percent and allows for more consistent operations under challenging weather and operating conditions.
Erica Geoffroy named marketing director at Allison Marine, Scott Ridley joins Home Bank, and Darren Guidry moves up to chief credit officer at Home Bank
The deadline to purchase tickets for the last installment of IND Media's 2013 Lecture Series featuring best-selling author Scott Turow is Monday, Dec. 2, at noon.
Subscribers of The Daily Advertiser received notice earlier this month that the Gannett-owned paper would be charging an extra $1.34 to deliver its Thanksgiving edition.
Baton Rouge-based fine jeweler confirms to ABiz that it is shuttering its mall store in favor of the Whole Foods development.