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UNITED STATES v. FREZZO BROS.

June 27, 1980

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
FREZZO BROTHERS, INC. GUIDO FREZZO and JAMES L. FREZZO



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK

MEMORANDUM

Petitioners James Frezzo, Guido Frezzo, and Frezzo Brothers, Inc. (Frezzo Bros.) were found guilty by a jury of discharging pollutants into navigable waters of the United States without a permit in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, 33 U.S.C.A. §§ 1311(a), 1319(c) (Act). James Frezzo and Guido Frezzo have filed petitions under 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255 or, in the alternative, for writs of error coram nobis, for vacation of the sentences imposed upon them by this Court. Frezzo Bros. has filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis seeking the same relief. The petitioners claim that they were exempt from the permit requirements of the Act by virtue of 40 C.F.R. § 125.4(i) (1978), which was in effect at the time the petitioners were indicted and convicted, but has subsequently been revised.

 Petitioners did not raise this issue at the time of their trial, nor was the issue raised in pre-trial or post-trial motions or on direct appeal. See United States v. Frezzo Brothers, Inc., 461 F. Supp. 266 (E.D.Pa.1978), aff'd, 602 F.2d 1123 (3d Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1074, 100 S. Ct. 1020, 62 L. Ed. 2d 756 (1980). After their convictions were affirmed by the Third Circuit, petitioners retained their present counsel, who petitioned the Third Circuit for a rehearing on the ground that the petitioners' activities were exempt from the permit requirements of the Act by virtue of 40 C.F.R. § 125.4(i). The Third Circuit denied the petition for rehearing without addressing its merits. A petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court, after which petitioners filed these motions for relief under section 2255 or for a writ of error coram nobis. We heard oral argument on these motions and for the reasons hereinafter set forth, the petitioners' motions will be denied.

 The evidence at the trial of this action showed that Guido Frezzo and James Frezzo were the president and secretary, respectively, of Frezzo Bros., a family business organized for the purpose of growing mushrooms and manufacturing mushroom compost, which is necessary for growing mushrooms. The primary ingredient of mushroom compost is horse manure. The petitioners built a large concrete holding tank on their property to catch all of the runoff from the mushroom compost pile. The petitioners' property contains two runoff systems. One system gathers the runoff from the compost pile into the holding tank described above and recirculates this runoff back to the compost pile by a system of pumps. The other system gathers the storm water runoff from the property and empties this storm water runoff into a pipe that runs approximately 200 feet from the Frezzo Bros. property into an unnamed branch of a creek which ultimately runs into the Delaware River. On each of the six dates charged in the indictment, runoff from the compost system made its way into the storm water runoff system and was permitted to be discharged into the branch of the creek. Samples of the runoff taken at these times contained pollutants that may not be discharged under the Act without a permit. There was uncontradicted testimony that none of the petitioners had ever been issued a permit by the EPA.

 At the end of the presentation of evidence, the Court charged the jury as to the elements the Government must prove in order to convict the petitioners under the Act. After reading the pertinent provisions of 33 U.S.C.A. § 1311(a) and 1319(c) to the jury, the Court charged that the Government must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

 
Number 1. That the defendant discharged a pollutant;
 
Number 2. That the defendant's discharge of the pollutant was done willfully or negligently;
 
Third. That the defendant did not have a permit to discharge the pollutant.

 In connection with the first element, the Court defined the terms "pollutant," "discharge of a pollutant," and "point source" in accordance with the definitions of these terms in the Act. We stated that the "discharge of a pollutant" means:

 
any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source.

 We further charged that a "point source" was defined in the Act as:

 
any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged.

 As previously stated, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against all of the petitioners.

 The regulations promulgated under the Act by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency which the petitioners claim entitles them to relief are 40 C.F.R. §§ ...


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