Mistrial for Miner Charged with Breaking Clean Water Law

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ordered the mistrial Thursday after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict

By Dillon Tabish

HELENA — A judge has declared a mistrial for a miner whom prosecutors charged with polluting wetlands and a waterway in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ordered the mistrial Thursday after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Jurors began deliberating the case against Joseph Roberston Wednesday morning.

Robertson was charged with violating the Clean Water Act, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.

Prosecutors say he dug ponds that discharged dredged and fill materials into a tributary of Cataract Creek and into nearby wetlands, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages.

Robertson says a state official gave him permission to dig the ponds to protect his property from fire, and he argued the waterway doesn’t fall under the federal law’s jurisdiction.

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