Felony Arraignment For Illegal Garbage Dumping

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced the arraignment of a Clinton County trash hauler who illegally disposed of solid waste collected by his company.

The arraignment of Robert J. Breyette, Sr., of Hurlbert Road in the Town of Mooers, marks the first time that a New Yorker has been charged with felony counts for illegal release of solid waste. Breyette was arraigned in Clinton County Court by Judge Patrick McGill and charged with four counts of Causing a Release of Solid Waste into the Environment; two of those counts involving the release of over 70 cubic yards of solid waste are Class E felonies, punishable by up to three years in prison and fines of up to $50,000 per violation.

Breyette pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $2,500 bail.

An investigation by Spitzer's office and the DEC found that on August 24 and October 27, 2000, Mr. Breyette knowingly and recklessly disposed of solid waste from his residential garbage pickups and his recycling operations on his property in Mooers. With the help of DEC engineers, investigators executed a search warrant on October 27, 2000, which confirmed that over 70 cubic yards of solid waste had been disposed of at the site. Because Breyette had a 1997 conviction for operating a solid waste management facility without a permit at the same location, the offense constituted an E felony.

The office of Clinton County Sheriff John Lawliss informed state officials of Breyette's activities and participated extensively in the investigation.

In 1995, the New York State Legislature amended the state's solid waste laws to elevate illegal dumping of solid waste to misdemeanor levels. Under the revised law, releasing more than ten cubic yards of solid waste is a B misdemeanor and release of over 70 cubic yards is an A misdemeanor. However, if a defendant who illegally released solid waste has a previous conviction in the last five years of a solid waste criminal offense, the crimes are elevated to A misdemeanor and E felony levels respectively. Prior to the Breyette case no one had been indicted under this revised statute.

"The purpose of this law is to address habitual violators who dispose of garbage to save money at the expense of the environment." Spitzer said. "We will continue to work with the DEC to prosecute those who illegally dispose of waste and pollute the state's environment as a matter of convenience."

DEC Acting Commissioner Erin Crotty said: "New York's environmental conservation laws establish important safeguards to protect our environment and preserve our natural resources. DEC will continue to work with Attorney General Spitzer to enforce these laws and ensure that individuals and industries across the state comply with the highest standards of environmental protection."

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General David Prior, under the supervision of Rocky Piaggione Chief of the Environmental Crimes Unit and Criminal Prosecution Bureau Chief Janet Cohn.