More twists in Executive Recycling trial

More twists in Executive Recycling trial

By Jake Thomas, Resource Recycling

A federal judge had denied a request from attorneys representing Brandon Richter, CEO of Executive Recycling, that they withdraw from the case. The same judge has also denied a separate request from the defense that the joint trial for Richter and Tor Olson, a vice president at the company, be split into separate trials.

The trial for Richter and Olson began Dec. 3. The two face a host of charges including wire and mail fraud, failure to file proper notifications on intent to export hazardous waste, smuggling and destruction and falsification of records.

The trial is the result of an investigation by the environmental justice group Basel Action Network, which prompted the television news program "60 Minutes," as well as the U.S. Government Accountability Office, to look into the issue of illicit shipments of e-scrap to developing countries.

On Dec. 7, the defense requested that the cases for Olson and Richter be tried separately, according to court documents filed by the defense, which are scant on details. Lawyers for the defense argued that evidence was introduced during the trial that created a situation where the acquittal of one co-defendant would mean the conviction of the other. Unable to adequately defend both Olson and Richter, lawyers for the defense made a motion to have their cases tried separately.

The motion was opposed by the prosecution and, on Dec. 10, the judge denied the motion to have the cases tried separately.

The next day, the judge denied a separate motion from Pamela Mackey and Cleo Rauchway, attorneys representing Richter and Executive Recycling, that they withdraw from the case. The attorneys were working with William Leone, who is representing Olson, on a joint defense. According to court documents, Mackey and Rauchway learned confidential information that would prevent them from providing an adequate defense for Richter and Executive Recycling.

Although documents filed by the defense have been light on details, the judge's Dec. 11 ruling denying their request sheds more light on the situation. According to the ruling, on the fourth day of trial the prosecution introduced a series of invoices created by Executive Recycling's accounting program as evidence. The invoices were being used by the prosecution to support charges that the company illegally exported CRTs to China. An employee of Executive Recycling testified that it appeared that a portion of the document had been altered, as the invoice number was out of sequence, the ruling states.

According to the judge's ruling, the defense sought to have the trials for Olson and Richter separated because if the prosecution was going to pursue a theory that the invoices had been altered or manipulated, it would place Richter and Olson "at odds with each other because only a limited number of employees at Executive Recycling had access to the company's accounting software."

It also cites an argument from Olson's lawyer that this scenario would force both defendants into a position "where they have no choice but to claim that neither of them altered the accounting record in question, and to cross examine the other, if he testifies, about that defendant's motive and opportunity to have performed the action in question."

No verdict has been reached yet.

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