Ex-company owner to appeal Camp Minden explosives sentence
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The former owner of a company that left thousands of tons of potentially explosive artillery propellant at a Louisiana National Guard facility says he will appeal his sentence.
David Alan Smith, 63, of Winchester, Kentucky, filed a notice of appeal Friday with the federal court in Shreveport, where he was sentenced Nov. 29 in connection with what a prosecutor called the nation’s worst-ever dumping of military explosives.
He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and to making false statements, and was sentenced to four years and seven months in prison and $34.8 million restitution. On Dec. 20, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote recommended that he be sent to a prison near his home.
Smith’s notice does not explain his reasons; it just lets the district court know that he plans to file an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. His attorney, Howard Lyn Lawrence Jr., was not in his office Friday evening and did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Smith was one of two owners of Explo Systems Inc., which had an $8.7 million Army contract to “demilitarize” artillery charges at a Louisiana National Guard facility called Camp Minden. The other owner died days before he was scheduled for trial.
Louisiana began investigating Explo Systems in 2012, after a thunderous explosion at sprawling Camp Minden, a 15,000-acre (6,100-hectare) site owned by the Louisiana National Guard. No one was hurt, but the blast shattered windows miles (kilometers) away, created a 7,000-foot (2,130-meter) mushroom cloud and derailed 11 rail cars near the bunker.
Investigators found 7,800 tons (7,100 metric tons) of potentially explosive M6 artillery propellant and 160 tons (145 metric tons) of clean-burning igniter, much of it outdoors or otherwise stored unsafely. It all had to be moved safely to bunkers.
Explo Systems went bankrupt in 2013. After years of debating how to get rid of the M6 and other materials, the National Guard hired Explosive Service International of Baton Rouge for $32 million to design a chamber to capture any pollution and to burn the materials.
Four former Explo Systems officials also pleaded guilty, drawing sentences ranging from 2 to 5 years in prison. They were ordered to repay the federal government a total of $598,000.
“The defendants ... used Camp Minden here in northwest Louisiana as the largest illegal dumping ground of military explosives in the history of the United States -- at over 15.6 million pounds of explosives,” U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph said in a statement afterward.
The restitution adds up to $35.4 million. Prosecutors said it includes the $8.7 million contract plus cleanup costs.