The federal SWAT team of nearly two dozen heavily armed agents from the EPA, FBI, and other agencies descended on the Canal Refining Co. in Church Point, Louisiana. Their target: Hubert P. Vidrine, Jr., the plant manager. His crime? Allegedly storing hazardous materials. His employees were herded up and treated like criminals. They were prevented from using the restrooms for several hours, as well as being denied the right to call their homes and daycare centers to make plans to have their children picked up.
That was in September 1996. It took the federal government more than three years, until December 1999, to indict Mr. Vidrine on one count of illegally storing a hazardous substance, during which time his name was publicly dragged through the mud, his liberties were greatly limited under pre-trial probation, and his family’s finances were devastated. The case against Mr. Vidrine turned out to be completely bogus, a malicious fabrication. The federal prosecutors, realizing they would lose in court, dropped all charges before the start of the trial. On September 30, 2011, 15 years after being subjected to the grief and humiliation of the EPA’s initial assault, Mr. and Mrs. Vidrine received a measure of redress, in the form of a decision by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty awarding them $1,677,000.00 in damages and legal costs.
“This Court finds probable cause did not exist to indict Hubert Vidrine, nor to doggedly pursue him for close to four years,” said Judge Doherty. Moreover, she noted, the EPA’s Keith Phillips “acted with malice” and “set out with intent and reckless and callous disregard for anyone’s rights other than his own … to effectively destroy another man’s life.”