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The Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C.S. § 1251 et seq., prohibits the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters without a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. The language in the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C.S. § 1319(c)(2)(A) prohibiting knowing violation of any permit condition is a shorthand designation for specific acts that violate the CWA. In § 1319(c)(2)(A), the penalty provisions encompass a wide variety of possible violations of the CWA and the word "knowingly" is used to reflect a requirement that the government prove general intent in order to establish a violation.
Michael H. Weitzenhoff and Thomas W. Mariani, who managed the East Honolulu Community Services Sewage Treatment Plant were the defendant managers who instructed their employees to dispose of waste activated sludge directly into the ocean at night. Following an FBI investigation, defendant-managers were charged in a thirty-one-count indictment with conspiracy and substantive violations of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 et seq. At trial, defendants admitted having authorized the discharges but claimed that their actions were justified under their interpretation of the NPDES permit. Defendants were convicted of violating the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C.S. § 1251 et seq. Defendants appealed the judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii that convicted them of violating the Clean Water Act. One defendant also challenged an upward adjustment of his sentence for obstruction of justice due to his perjury during the trial.
Was the defendant guilty of violating the Clean Water Act?
The court affirmed defendant managers' convictions for authorizing the illegal disposal of waste into the ocean in violation of the Clean Water Act. The government did not need to prove that defendants knew that their acts violated either a permit or the CWA as long as it established that defendants knowingly engaged in the conduct. The court held that the district court's admission of expert testimony on contested issues of law in lieu of instructing the jury was harmless error. The permits were not unconstitutionally vague. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence, and a jury instruction on entrapment was not warranted. Although certain testimony and prosecutorial remarks were of questionable relevance, they did not materially affect the verdict or rendered the trial unfair considered in the context of the entire proceeding. Finally, the district court's upward adjustment in one defendant's sentence due to his perjurious testimony was not clearly erroneous.