A federal judge has awarded a former refinery manager $1.6 million in damages from the federal government in a civil suit involving the man’s malicious prosecution in a pollution case.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty handed down the 142 page ruling Friday, awarding Hubert P. Vidrine Jr. a total of $1,677,000.
Vidrine was accused in a 1999 federal indictment of storing hazardous waste without a permit at the Canal Refining Co. in Church Point.
Charges against Vidrine were dismissed in September 2003 after a judge ruled the prosecution’s main witness would not be allowed to testify about key aspects of the case.
Vidrine and his wife filed a civil lawsuit in federal court in Lafayette seeking $5.18 million from the government in July 2007.
The civil case went to trial in June.
In the ruling, Doherty wrote that Keith Phillips, a former special agent with the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Dallas, “set out with intent and reckless and callous disregard for anyone’s rights other than his own, and reckless disregard for the processes and power which had been bestowed him, to effectively destroy another man’s life - a conduct which cannot go unaddressed, or unrecognized.”
Doherty wrote that Phillips “displayed the very worst example of abuse and misuse of power and trust bestowed upon a governmental agent, and has brought great shame upon the agency which had entrusted him with that power, responsibility, and authority.”
A federal grand jury indicted Phillips in July with obstructing justice and lying under oath about an affair he had with an FBI special agent while the two agents and their respective agencies investigated the pollution case against Vidrine.
While punitive damages are not allowable in cases brought against the government, Doherty wrote that she would have awarded them in this case if they would have been allowable “in the hope of deterring such reckless and damaging conduct and abuse of power in the future.”
Doherty awarded Vidrine $50,000 in lost income; $900,000 in loss of earning capacity; $127,000 in costs and attorneys fees incurred in defending the original criminal prosecution; $400,000 in general damages; and $200,000 in loss of consortium.