Federal prosecutors were to begin presenting evidence to a jury today against a Virginia environmental consultant accused of having wreaked havoc on regulated wetlands on a 3,000-acre private hunting and game preserve in Dorchester County.
In an opening statement yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane F. Barrett told the trial jury in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that defendant William B. Ellen repeatedly ignored warnings from a private engineer and an Army Corps of Engineers inspector to stop wetlands work at the preserve until he obtained the required permits.
Ellen, 44, of Matthews, Va., is indicted on six counts of violating the Clean Water Act by filling wetlands at Tudor Farms, massive property adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and owned by multimillionaire commodities trader Paul Tudor Jones 2nd.
Jones, who lives in New York, pleaded guilty last May to illegally filling in 86 acres of wetlands at the site in what authorities described as the largest environmental criminal case ever prosecuted in the United States.
Jones, who hired Ellen as project manager for Tudor Farms' development, was fined $1 million, ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to the National Wildlife Foundation and barred from hunting migratory waterfowl for two years. He cooperated in the Ellen investigation and may be a prosecution witness during this trial.
Benjamin S. Sharp, one of Ellen's defense attorneys, contended yesterday that Ellen obtained about a dozen permits from various government agencies for the project.
Sharp, hinting at a scattergun defense in the multifaceted case, said a state ecologist marked trees for clearing at Tudor Farms and that county officials told Ellen certain parts of the site were not wetlands, as prosecutors now contend.
Sharp acknowledged that "some wetlands were filled" but told the jury, "Your job is to decide whether that was knowingly done."
Barrett said Alex Dolgos, the Corps inspector, told Ellen three times during one visit that the wetlands work would have to stop on the site until the agency approved development plans and issued the required permits.
She said Ellen responded, "I can't. If I do, I have all these construction people I'd have to pay" for sitting idle until the permits were obtained.
The indictment charges that Ellen ordered tree-cutting, excavation, wetlands-filling and road construction on several sections of tidal and nontidal wetlands without federal permits.