In a case worthy of daytime television, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ordered on Friday, September 30, that the United States pay $1.7 million to Hubert P. Vidrine, a client of the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF).  WLF worked closely with Mr. Vidrine’s local trial counsel, Gary Cornwell, to bring a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act for malicious prosecution.  Mr. Vidrine had been pursuing his claim for the past five years after the government dropped all criminal charges on the eve of trial.  

The just-resolved case started in 1996 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered its SWAT-like special operations team (equipped with M-16 rifles and police dogs) to raid the Canal Refinery, Mr. Vidrine’s workplace.  The raid led to a criminal investigation against Mr. Vidrine for allegedly unlawful storage and disposal of hazardous wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Drugs and Hypnotism.  When asked to prove its case, the EPA turned to its star witness, Mike Franklin, who claimed he had taken samples of the allegedly hazardous material and had conducted tests proving Mr. Vidrine’s guilt.  The only problem is that neither Mr. Franklin nor the EPA could produce these tests.  Whoops.  With the credibility of the case already crumbling, it then came to light that Mr. Franklin suffered an addiction to cocaine, an addiction that often results in psychosis: loss of contact with reality, including false beliefs.  Determined to press on, the EPA tried to prove its case by extracting truthful information from Mr. Franklin through hypnosis.  But this too failed.