A thanks to my good friend David Weinstein for providing this information.
In September 2004, youths from a nearby apartment complex broke into the Southern Union facility in Rhode Island and played with some mercury that was stored at the facility, and spread it around the facility and surrounding area. A cleanup ensues and then in 2007, a grand jury indicted Southern Union on multiple counts of violating federal environmental statutes, including a count that alleged that the company knowingly stored liquid mercury without a permit at the Pawtucket facility “[f ]rom on or about September 19, 2002 until on or about October 19, 2004,” in violation of RCRA.
Southern Union Company was convicted by a jury in federal court on the count alleging the RCRA violation for having knowingly stored liquid mercury without a permit at a subsidiary's facility “on or about September 19, 2002 to October 19, 2004.” The violation of RCRA are punishable by, inter alia, a fine of not more than $50,000.00 for each day of violation (see 42 U. S. C. §6928(d)). At sentencing, the probation office calculated a maximum fine of $38,100,00.00, on the basis that Southern Union violated RCRA for each of the 762 days from September 19, 2002, through October 19, 2004.
Southern Union argued that imposing any fine greater than the 1-day penalty of $50,000.00 would be unconstitutional under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U. S. 466, which holds that the Sixth Amendment's
jury-trial guarantee requires that any fact (other than the fact of a prior conviction) that increases the maximum punishment authorized for a particular crime be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Southern Union contended that, based on the jury verdict and the District Court's
instructions, the only violation the jury necessarily found was for one day.
The District Court held that Apprendi applied to criminal fines, but concluded from the “content and context of the verdict all together” that the jury found a 762-day violation. The court therefore set a maximum potential fine of $38,100,000.00, from which it imposed a fine of $6,000,000.00 and a "community service obligation” of $12,000,000.00.
On appeal, the First Circuit disagreed with the District Court that the jury necessarily found a violation of 762 days. But the First Circuit affirmed the sentence because it held that Apprendi did not apply to criminal fines.
Reversing, SCOTUS ruled that the rule of Apprendi applied to the imposition of criminal fines. Going forward, the government will have more to prove up at trial. If you would like a copy of the SCOTUS opinion, just let me know.
As always, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org