Executive Recycling trial underway

Executive Recycling trial underway

By Jake Thomas, Resource Recycling

The jury trial for two executives of a Colorado electronics recycling company accused of illegally exporting e-scrap to China has begun, and the defense is already arguing the trial is deeply flawed.

On Dec. 3, the jury trial for Brandon Richter, owner and chief executive officer of Executive Recycling, and Tor Olson, the company's former vice president of operations, began in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The two were indicted in September 2011 on charges of wire and mail fraud, failure to file proper notifications on intent to export hazardous waste, smuggling and destruction and falsification of records.

Executive Recycling is alleged to have told clients that it would recycle their electronics "properly, right here in the U.S.," but instead sent the e-scrap, including CRTs, to China.

The case is the result of an investigation by the Basel Action Network, an environmental justice organization, which found evidence that Executive Recycling was illegally shipping e-scrap it collected from businesses, government entities and individuals to China. The investigation prompted the Government Accountability Office to look into the illicit trade of e-scrap. It also spurred "60 Minutes" to produce a segment in 2008 on the issue, which put Executive Recycling under its magnifying glass. Portions of the "60 Minutes" piece are being used as evidence in the trial.

According to court documents, the defense is arguing that Executive Recycling didn't export the scrap, nor did the company facilitate its transportation or sale to purchasers who would illegally ship them. The defense also denies that the company altered, destroyed and concealed export records and the fraud charges as well.

Not even a week in, the trial has hit a snag.

On Dec. 7, the defense requested that Olson and Richter's cases be tried separately. The request came a day after the defense unsuccessfully moved to have a mistrial declared for charges that Executive Recycling misrepresented itself to clients. The defense is now arguing that evidence has been presented that prevents it from defending both clients adequately in the same trial and wants separate trials for Olson and Richter. Olson has argued that he must have a new trial because evidence that has been admitted in this trial would not be admissible in a trial of just him.

On Dec. 9, a motion was filed by Pamela Mackey and Cleo Rauchway to withdraw as counsel for defendants for Executive Recycling and Richter. The motion notes that Olson, who is represented by William Leone, had been working with Richter's lawyers on their defense.

Citing attorney-client privileges, the motion cryptically states that on the morning of the fifth day of the trial, Mackey and Rauchway learned information concerning their agreement with Leone that led them to conclude they could no longer effectively represent Executive Recycling and Richter.

Although documents filed by the defense in support of having separate trials for Olson and Richter are vague on details, documents filed by the prosecution, which opposes the defense's request, provides more information. A document filed Dec. 9 by the prosecution asserts that the entire basis for the defense's argument to split the case rests on evidence that someone at Executive Recycling doctored a shipping invoice that is being used by prosecutors.

The prosecution has argued that the defense's request is baseless and has come too late in the game.

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