Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Top Environmental Prosecutor to Join Musick Peeler
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The chief environmental crimes prosecutor for the Central District of California is leaving to join Musick, Peeler & Garrett’s Los Angeles office, effective tomorrow.
“I’ve been looking to go into private practice for a long time,” Assistant U.S. Attorney William W. “Bill” Carter, 49, said yesterday. ”I’m excited about working in some new areas of practice and working with some new people.”
Carter has been prosecuting environmental and other crimes for over 21 years, having started his career at the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office before moving on to the District Attorney’s Office, where he worked on task force prosecutions and served as a special assistant U.S. attorney. He has been an assistant U.S. attorney for 12 years, the last five in his present position.
“I’ve done pretty much everything I’ve wanted to do” in the public sector, he said, adding that he was looking forward to the opportunity to team up again with Barry Groveman, who was his supervisor at the city attorney and district attorney offices and now heads the environmental practice at Musick Peeler. Groveman yesterday described Carter as “unquestionably the greatest environmental crimes prosecutor in the United States.”
Carter handled a number of high-profile cases, including the prosecutions of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and the shipping giant Evergreen International for oil dumping, and of the Grow Group, whose illegal storage of wastes caused more than 30,000 residents to be evacuated from their homes, resulting in jail sentences for two executives and a large fine for the corporation.
One positive result of the Grow Group case was that a portion of the fine was used to establish a scholarship fund to benefit students at schools in the area where the discharge occurred and who have an interest in environmental issues, Carter said.
“When we first started doing these cases the courts didn’t really think these were crimes,” he told the MetNews, and most of the convictions they got were for misdemeanors. Now there are numerous state and federal criminal prosecutions, many for felonies.
There is “far greater level of compliance” than in the past, he added, saying he no longer sees as much blatant environmental crime. At one time, he said, “you could just fly over the L.A. River” and see illegal waste dumping, which today is far less common.
Today’s environmental prosecutors, Carter said, are handling many different kinds of cases, including laboratory frauds and cases against the operators of foreign flag vessels dumping toxic waste in international waters, who can be prosecuted in U.S. courts for falsifying records.
Carter also worked on major cases outside the environmental area, having served as deputy chief of the Public Corruption and Government Fraud Section from 1998 to 2001. He was involved in the prosecutions of former Los Angeles Police Department Rampart Division officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden and the prosecutions of a dozen defendants convicted of smuggling quota-restricted Chinese textiles into the United States through the Port of Los Angeles.
The latter case was the largest commercial smuggling prosecution in the United States when it was brought.
Carter praised outgoing U.S. Attorney Debra W. Yang, saying she “kept making it difficult to leave” the office by giving him new and challenging assignments. His decision to join Musick Peeler, he said, is unrelated to Yang’s departure and was already in progress when he learned she was resigning.
In a statement released yesterday, Yang praised Carter as “an expert in the field of environmental law, not only in the city and state, but also, quite frankly in the country.”
Carter is a graduate of UCLA and Loyola Law School and was admitted to practice in 1984.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company