Forgery charges to move forward
Judge rejects motion to dismiss evidence in waste treatment case
Philip Bethell of Craig will stand trial on charges of forgery and attempt to influence a public official.
During a motions hearing Monday, District Court Judge Michael O’Hara found that the Solid Waste Act requires Bethell to randomly test the waste he treats at his business, Elk Springs Recycle and Recovery.
The waste treatment facility, located about 50 miles west of Craig, accepts production fluids from the oil and gas industry.
The Colorado Attorney General’s Office is accusing Bethell of submitting, or causing to be submitted, forged testing reports to the state. The allegedly forged documents were submitted from 2001 to 2004.
In 2003, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent Bethell a letter informing him that under a grandfather clause, his facility was exempt from section nine of the Solid Waste Act. The section normally regulates facilities such as Elk Springs Recycle and Recovery and requires them to test the waste they accept.
Yet the attorney general requested a search warrant that cited section nine of the act and alleged that Elk Springs Recycle and Recovery was out of compliance with the testing regulations.
After the court granted the search warrant, the Attorney General’s Office seized a word processor upon which Bethell produces his letterhead and obtained a sample of Bethell’s handwriting.
Bethell’s attorney, Sherman Romney of Craig, argued that the Attorney General’s Office, by citing section nine in the search warrant, demonstrated that the agency investigated the case recklessly. He asked O’Hara to throw out the evidence the Attorney General’s Office seized.
But O’Hara found that section two of the Solid Waste Act requires Bethell to randomly sample waste, and he rejected Romney’s arguments.
Bethell’s trial is scheduled for four days starting on June 5.
Bethell will appear in court again today in a civil suit with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The department is seeking an injunction from the court that would order Bethell to hire a contractor to perform random sampling of the waste accepted at Elk Springs Recycle and Recovery.
According to court documents filed by the Attorney General’s Office, the letterhead of Elk Springs Recycle and Recovery and the letterhead that the testing reports are printed on are very similar.
The laboratory cited on the letterhead — Beuerman and Associates of Butte, Mont. — closed in 1999. But the reports are dated from 2001 to 2004.
During a telephone interview last week, Bethell denied forging the reports. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.
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