Alabama developer’s wetlands trial reset for October

HANCOCK COUNTY — An Alabama real estate developer’s trial on federal charges of wetlands and Clean Water Act violations in Hancock County has been changed to Oct. 7 because of problems brought on by budget cuts.

The Sun Herald reports the trial of William R. Miller, of Fairhope, Ala., was set for last week but a judge agreed to delay it on a motion by a federal public defender. The trial has already been delayed once because public defenders cited problems with funding.

Court document say the Federal Public Defenders Office has lacked the money to continue paying an expert.

Miller faces trial on seven counts that allege he directed the illegal filling of large portions of wetlands in 2007 to avoid hindrances in commercial development near Bay St. Louis.

In a related case, Hancock County Land LLC, also based in Alabama, has agreed to pay a $1 million fine for damaging wetlands and polluting waters by filling wetlands in that area without permission form the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The company had permission to fill some acres on the 1,170-acre tract, but not all that was filled.

The land was bought by HCL, Stennis Land LLC and Stennis Technology Park Inc.

Miller was charged separately. In a court filing, he said he was involved in the development of Stennis Technology Park and a separate commercial building, and said the proper permits were applied for on his work.

Because of budget constraints from sequestration, the Federal Public Defenders Office has lacked the money to continue paying an expert, a court document said. The defense has spent its maximum allowance of $2,400 for compensation for experts on the case. More money won’t be available until Oct. 1.

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