The manager of Halle's Marina and Campground in Calvert County has been convicted of two felony water pollution charges for dumping raw sewage into a storm drain adjacent to wetlands and Chesapeake Bay.
The trial jury also convicted Halle Marina Inc. of three water pollution counts, one a misdemeanor, on evidence that Michael T. Strandquist, the manager, and another employee dumped sewage into the drain on three dates last summer.
Jurors deliberated for 3 1/2 hours before returning the verdicts in U.S. District Court in Baltimore late Friday.
Strandquist, 32, of Annapolis, admitted in trial testimony that he dumped sewage into the drain only during emergencies, when the facility was full of campers and boaters and its septic tanks were filled.
But he said he thought the drain pipe was plugged, and contended he did not know the waste would run off into the marina and the adjacent bay.
The prosecution had to prove that Strandquist and the another Halle employee, Stephen Poe, knowingly and willfully discharged the pollutants into U.S. waters without a federal permit. Prosecutors also had to prove in the company's case that it benefited from the illegal acts.
The jury rejected the prosecution's "knowingly-and-willfully" contention on one felony count against the corporation, but found Halle negligent and convicted him on the lesser offense included in that charge.
In closing arguments earlier Friday, prosecutors Jane F. Barrett and Kathleen O. Gavin detailed numerous discrepancies in Strandquist's testimony, including his admission that he knew it was wrong to dump the waste in the storm drain.
Defense attorney Frank Brocato called government witnesses "vindictive" and told the jury there was no specific evidence that any of the sewage got into the bay.
Strandquist, Brocato said, "spent three years down there trying to clean up the place. . . . He turned it into a showplace" and constantly consulted with state environmental officials and county health officials before he embarked on improvement projects that might have had impacts on the tidal waters in and around the marina.
M. Albert Figinski, Halle's lead attorney, claimed that all the company's violations constituted misdemeanor negligence, not felony water pollution.
"The defense is, the [drain] pipe was a bottomless pit that Strandquist used at his convenience," Barrett countered.
The pollution last summer "was the culmination of a pattern and practice of dumping sewage on orders from that man," she said, pointing to Strandquist, "for the express purpose of cleaning out the campers" and boats that parked at the marina-campground.
"He deliberately dumped sewage into the grate [atop the storm drain] whenever an emergency arose," Barrett continued. "God forbid that he should have to pay a honey-dipper to come out and clean up the septic systems" on the site.