Attorney General Appeals Sentence for Wastewater Dumping
Washington PA Observer Reporter
28 December 2012
By Jon Stevens, Greene County Bureau Chief
The state attorney general’s office filed an appeal with the state
Superior Court this week, claiming Greene County Judge Farley
Toothman’s probationary sentence given to Robert Allan Shipman was
unreasonable and “did not fit the crime.”
Earlier, however, Toothman defended his sentence, claiming
“probation complies with the law and is within the court’s
Shipman, of New Freeport, was accused of illegally dumping
drilling wastewater, sewage sludge and restaurant grease into area
streams, a mine shaft and on various properties throughout the
area between 2003 and 2009.
He also was accused of stealing more than $250,000 by overbilling
companies that hired him to haul and dispose of wastewater
Shipman pleaded guilty in February to two counts each of theft,
conspiracy, receiving stolen property and tampering with public
records, 10 counts of unlawful conduct and eight counts of
pollution of waters.
On June 15, Toothman sentenced Shipman to 7 years of probation and
ordered him to pay $257,316 in restitution to companies he
over-billed, $100,000 in fines, $25,000 to the attorney general’s
office and to serve 1,750 hours of community service.
The commonwealth recommended Shipman be sentenced in the standard
range of the sentencing guidelines for the most serious charge of
theft, which is 9 to 16 months in jail.
In the appeal, Chief Deputy Attorney General James P. Barker said
Shipman stole money from customers, falsified documents to mislead
the state Department of Environmental Protection and polluted a
number of streams without any regard to the consequences of this
Toothman said Shipman had no past criminal record, was
cooperative, remorseful and promptly paid restitution, fines and
The court also recognized Shipman’s individual and family history,
evidence of his character and the fact he would never again
receive a DEP permit.
“If Shipman had any overwhelming sense of remorse, he would
have entered a guilty plea without an agreement, or at least
expressed some sense of remorse to the victims; he did neither,”
Barker also said Shipman was able to make charitable contributions
because he was running a criminal enterprise, using his employees
as participants in this unlawful conduct.
In support of his sentence, Toothman further questioned the
factual basis of the plea agreement and cited the state’s failure
to consistently prosecute polluters.
Barker countered that there is “no real evidence that the
environmental laws are not enforced. Moreover, the sentencing
court’s orders and opinions relating to sentencing reflect a clear
hostility toward the attorney for the Commonwealth and toward
anyone charged with enforcing the environmental laws, as the
sentencing court was of the view that these persons have not done
an adequate job.”
The case involved three separate aspects of criminal activity, the
There was the theft of more than a quarter of a million dollars by
Shipman from 17 separate entities; there was the disposal of gas
well production water into various streams and other waterways;
and there was the falsification of records that would have allowed
DEP to fulfill its duty to monitor the waterways.
“A review of the record show that the rationale for the sentence
expressed by the trial court is not supported by the record or
simply does not warrant this lenient treatment of a serial thief,
polluter and deceiver,” Barker said.
“Indeed, the record makes clear that the sentence was unreasonable
and was the product of partiality, prejudice, bias or ill will,”
Barker then cites a statement Toothman made that Barker refers to
as “most remarkable.”
Toothman said, “That the plea agreement was negotiated to the
complete satisfaction of the Commonwealth, defendant and the court
who are now all bound together to enforce it. It may now seem that
the ease and convenience of a guilty plea has become the tyranny
of good intentions for the Commonwealth …”
Barker said the tyranny of good intentions refers to a book
Toothman apparently has taken to heart, “The Tyranny of Good
Intentions: How Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Are Trampling the
Constitution in the Name of Justice,” by Paul Craig and Lawrence
Stratton, the latter being the director of the Stover Center for
Constitutional Studies and Moral Leadership at Waynesburg
Based on anecdotal evidence, Barker said, Stratton and his
co-author argue prosecutors abuse the plea negotiation process to
deprive citizens of their constitutional rights (completely
ignoring the fact that defendants such as Shipman have the right
to counsel and the right to negotiate a favorable plea agreement
and failing that, the right to proceed to trial).
“Needless to say, there is no room in the sentencing process for a
judge to base a decision on such teachings,” Barker said.