Former Freedom Industries president Gary Southern also faces up to three years in prison for role in massive 2014 chemical leak
Former Freedom Industries president Gary Southern on Wednesday pleaded guilty to pollution crimes for his company's role in a massive chemical spill in West Virginia in January 2014.
is the last of six Freedom officials to plead guilty in the spill, which saw more than 7,000 gallons of hazardous waste pour from a damaged tank into West Virginia's Elk River-contaminating the state's largest public water supply, which serves 300,000 people.
"Guilty, your honor," Southern
said three times when asked by Johnston for his plea to each of the misdemeanor counts.
became a notorious public face for the company after a televised press conference showed him swigging bottled water-even as Kanawha Valley residents remained under an emergency "do not drink" order-and telling reporters he'd had a "long day."
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Residents who expressed anger over Southern's callousness may not be quelled by the terms of his
Under those stipulations, Southern
will get back many of the assets that were seized by authorities during the investigation into the spill-including a Bentley luxury car and $7.3 million from his
will also give up the right to sue the federal government over the property seizures, which his
lawyers argued in court were illegal.
Prosecutors will also drop 12 felony counts pending against Southern
over separate allegations that he
had hidden his
personal wealth from the FBI
while the bureau investigated Freedom's bankruptcy declaration last year.
should be made to pay restitution to everyone within 200 miles of the site of the spill.
declared bankruptcy within days of the spill (Jan, 2014).
was immediately bought by Chemstream
is owned by Clifford Forrest, president of Rosebud Mining
, a Kittanning, Pa.-based company he
founded in 1979 and which is now the third-largest underground coal producer in Pennsylvania with 1,400 employees in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The first thing Forrest did was name Southern
the CEO who was also compensated $20 million in bonuses.