Wetlands violation case goes to jury Shore project manager allegedly filled 86 acres

January 03, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Prosecutors have told a federal jury here that the former project manager for development of a 3,272-acre Eastern Shore hunting and game preserve is guilty of "blatant destruction of federally protected wetlands."

But defense attorney Benjamin S. Sharp contended, in closing arguments to the trial jury yesterday, that his client, William Ellen, depended on the advice of government bureaucrats who misled him and sought his prosecution as "an excuse" to cover up their own inadequacies.

Ellen, 44, of Mathews, Va., has been on trial for a month on six charges of violating the Clean Water Act by filling 86 acres of wetlands without permits at Tudor Farms, a game preserve near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County. The preserve is owned by multimillionaire New York commodities trader Paul Tudor Jones 2nd.

The case, part of the largest criminal wetlands prosecution in the nation's history, went to the jury late yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Deliberations were to continue today.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jane F. Barrett and Ethan L. Bauman said in their closing arguments that Ellen deliberately ignored DTC repeated warnings about meeting federal permit requirements, knowingly and willingly supervised illegal wetlands work, and later concealed it when authorities questioned what had been done.

Construction crews filled wetlands, bulldozed ponds and built illegal roads at Tudor Farms for 1 1/2 years before the work was halted on orders from the Army Corps of Engineers in March 1989, the prosecutors said.

"This case is not about mistakes, it's about intentional, premeditated violations," Barrett told the jury.

"If you had walked around Tudor Farms in 1987 [before construction began], you'd have had to be blindfolded not to know you were working in a regulated area."

Sharp argued that Ellen, a marine engineer, sought help from state and federal environmental officials who gave him wetlands and topographical maps of the area but failed to tell him he needed specific permits to comply with the environmental regulations that he eventually was indicted for violating.

"This is not a project that was carved out in the middle of the night to avoid detection," Sharp told the jury.

He said Ellen obtained a variety of state and county permits, and consulted Alex Dolgos, a Corps of Engineers official, on ways to develop the property without federal permits, then followed Dolgos' instructions to the letter.

Dolgos testified as a prosecution witness that he repeatedly told Ellen that wetlands were being filled illegally, without the required permits.

Jones, Tudor Farms' owner, pleaded guilty last May to a charge of illegally filling wetlands. He agreed to pay a $1 million fine and $1 million in restitution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for use at the Blackwater refuge.

Jones also is under court orders not to hunt migratory waterfowl anywhere in the United States for two years.

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