The barbs, counter-charges, and accusations of “unethical conduct as a lawyer” continue to fly from both sides like burning embers lofted by a wildfire, about the 2007 Moonlight Fire that burned 65,000 acres (map), including 46,000 acres in the Plumas and Lassen National Forests in northern California.
CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service claimed a bulldozer operated by Sierra Pacific Industries was responsible for starting the fire. Three years ago the company agreed to pay $100 million to settle the case, but in the last several months they have sought to reverse the deal because of alleged misdeeds by investigators and prosecutors.
Below are excerpts from an article in the Sacramento Bee:
Federal prosecutors in Sacramento have launched a blistering new attack on Sierra Pacific Industries and its lawyers, accusing the timber giant of “deception” and “scandal mongering” in its efforts to reverse a $100 million settlement it agreed to pay over the 2007 Moonlight fire, which burned huge swaths of the Plumas and Lassen national forests.cases.
“The government contends Sierra Pacific’s efforts to overturn the settlement “lack integrity” and are based on false accusations, and that the company “only pretended to settle” the lawsuit it faced. “This is professional misconduct of the worst kind,” the government brief states.
Among the claims made by Sierra Pacific are allegations that a veteran assistant U.S. attorney, E. Robert Wright, was forced out of his lead role in the case after he refused to “engage in unethical conduct as a lawyer.” Wright filed a declaration for Sierra Pacific in which he said he was removed from the case and replaced by a prosecutor with no previous experience in wildland fire cases.
“They try to create the impression that Wright is a celebrated veteran of the U.S. Attorney’s office, who received nothing but praise for his work,” the government’s brief states. “But in fact, his work was of mediocre quality and it was for this reason the Moonlight fire case was assigned to another attorney at the pleading stage, before discovery commenced.”
“My comment is simply that we have officials who are supposed to be diligently and honestly representing the U.S. government who are actually lying in papers they are filing with the court, and making up stuff five years after the fact,” Wright said.
Articles on Wildfire Today tagged Moonlight Fire.