Crime And Law

Clinton County polluter, called ‘environmental terrorist,’ is sentenced to prison

COLUMBUS — A Clinton County man called an “environmental terrorist” by a judge is on his way to prison for illegally burning wood paneling, drywall, processed wood, plastic and other solid wastes.

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Jason Wallace, 46, of the unincorporated community of Cuba, was sentenced Tuesday in Clinton County Common Pleas Court. He was found guilty on two counts of illegal open burning of solid waste, which is an unclassified felony, and two counts of causing air pollution, which is a misdemeanor.

The open-burning charges arise from separate incidents -- one in 2020 and the other in 2021.

“Some people just won’t learn that if you play with fire, you are bound to get burned,” Yost said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “I appreciate the help of our environmental partners at the Ohio EPA, Wilmington Fire Department and Clinton County Sheriff’s Office in halting this illegal activity.”

In the 2020 incident, Wilmington fire received a call on Sept. 30 about smoke that smelled “toxic.” Firefighters arrived in Cuba to find Wallace, who claimed he was burning wood to clean up the property.

Wilmington fire Lt. Brant Schmitt reported seeing wood paneling, drywall, processed wood, plywood, cardboard, plastic, a nylon bag and a hairbrush in the fire -- and a charred wheel rim nearby.

At Wallace’s trial, Lt. Schmitt testified that Wallace had been warned previously not to open-burn solid wastes yet ignored the warnings.

In the second incident, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office in February 2021 responded to a report from an Ohio EPA investigator about burning on another property. Deputies found Wallace burning bags of trash on a utility trailer, including plastic containers, soda cans and bottles.

In sentencing Wallace to prison, the judge cited Wallace’s “history of poor decision-making” and his “lengthy and significant criminal history.”

“The court finds [the] defendant to be an environmental terrorist completely oblivious to the harm his misconduct causes to the community and his neighbors,” the judge wrote. “The [d]efendant shows no remorse and remains a continuing threat to the public.”

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