Washington, DC – An Assistant U.S. Attorney from Ohio has won a precedent-setting whistleblower decision against the Department of Justice (DOJ) for their retaliation against his investigation of environmental crimes. The decision, by a U.S. Department of Labor administrative law judge, assesses $200,000 in punitive damages against DOJ.
Greg Sassé, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Ohio, charged that he was prevented from pursuing a series of major toxic waste prosecutions, including an investigation of serious contamination on the site of a proposed runway expansion at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
“This decision establishes that the Department of Justice is not above the law,” stated Sassé. “Unfortunately, my case is not isolated – environmental prosecutors are becoming an endangered species within DOJ.”
Although Sassé filed his original complaint in 1996, he contends the harassment has continued to the present day. DOJ made repeated efforts to dismiss the case, arguing that prosecutors were not covered by the witness protection provisions of environmental laws under which Sassé filed his complaint.
“This case stands for the proposition that prosecutors can be whistleblowers,” stated Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) who represented Sassé during DOJ’s attempts to dismiss the matter. Cleveland attorney Steven Bell argued Sassé’s case at hearing. “Greg is just one example of the de-emphasis on environmental prosecution during the Clinton Administration – a trend we are not seeing reversed under Bush.”
A copy of the decision is available upon request.
The PEER report, Uneven Justice, detailing the declining trend in environmental prosecution is also available.