Rebel Miner - Hardesty filed a federal Civil Rights lawsuit
Paul Koberstein and John Williams, SNR, May 31, 2012Local gravel miners Hardesty, 55, and his business partner, Richard David Churches, 44, have earned the unsolicited adoration of tea party activists across the country for their unrelenting contempt of government regulation.
Ultimately, however, defiance of the law comes at a price. Together, the miners face felony and misdemeanor charges in a 24-count criminal complaint in connection with violations—many of which impact two of Sacramento’s three rivers—of a wide variety of environmental statutes. They must also pay more than a million dollars in fines. Both have entered not-guilty pleas to the charges.
Hardesty, who lives in Elk Grove, has been disregarding mining regulations for as long as he has been in the business—now 32 years—state-mining-board documents show. He did not return this reporter’s several phone calls seeking comment on the allegations against him, but his San Diego attorney William Brewer says Hardesty “denies that he is polluting anything.”
But there is no denying that Hardesty has been indifferent to the consequences of his actions on the environment. For example, his mine in Sloughhouse, located some 20 miles southeast of downtown Sacramento, threatens to literally rip the guts out of the Cosumnes River.
His other mining operation, the Big Cut Mine in Placerville, another 30 miles to the east, has carried pollution and mining waste into the American River, a recreational mecca for thousands of Sacramentans.
Until his arrest on February 9, Hardesty had been free on probation (the result of a January 2011, conviction on one misdemeanor charge in an oil-spill incident at one of his mines), but a Sacramento County Superior Court judge revoked his probation on May 10. Further action on the probation violation has been stayed until after a pretrial hearing in El Dorado County on June 14.
If found guilty, Hardesty could be ordered to serve the remaining 364 days of his suspended sentence behind bars, plus whatever additional jail time is levied in El Dorado County.
As for Churches, he is free on his own recognizance. He will be tried alongside Hardesty. His attorney, Glenn Peterson of Sacramento, denied that Churches was engaged in any commercial gravel mining. “The mining activities have been limited to mining gravel for their own road,” he said.
A third partner, Daniel Tankersley, has not been charged. ...
But the ending to this story could be something only a tea party patriot would truly love. According to Brewer, Hardesty filed a federal lawsuit on May 10, alleging that his civil rights had been violated in the investigations against him. And court papers on file with El Dorado County indicate that Hardesty has applied to receive only probation for his latest round of environmental crimes.