Anthony John Kerner Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula on January 21, 2010, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch, ANTHONY JOHN KERNER, a 44-year-old resident of Butte, pled guilty to theft of government property. Sentencing is set for April 30, 2010. He is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On August 18, 2009, KERNER and another person broke into the Beal Mountain Reclamation Facility in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. A Forest Service employee and an employee of Tetra Tech, the company performing the reclamation at the mine, encountered KERNER and the other person leaving the mine site. KERNER's pickup was loaded with property, some of which belonged to Tetra Tech and some of which belonged to the Forest Service. Among the items in KERNER's truck were a Polaris ATV (Tetra Tech property), generators (government property), pumps, electrical panels and cables, buckets of bolts, and pump assemblies.
KERNER and his accomplice gave false names to the Forest Service and Tetra Tech employees and KERNER said he was at the facility to pick up scrap metal that he had purchased from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality at an auction in 2008. The employees told KERNER that he had to unload the truck, which he did, and they recognized many items of property that were not part of the DEQ auction.
After KERNER left the area, the Tetra Tech employee surveyed the damage to the facility. The pump that operated an overflow treated water tank had been damaged, a large electrical line had been cut, and a transducer had been removed, which caused the plant to shut down in order to control the contaminated water. Interior and exterior locked doors were damaged, windows were broken, and numerous items of property were moved, damaged or missing.
On August 19, 2009, the Forest Service employee and the Tetra Tech employee went to the Butte police station to review photos in an attempt to identify the suspects. The male suspect was identified as KERNER.
Also on August 19, 2009, law enforcement learned that the Beal Mountain Facility had again been breached, and the Polaris ATV and one of the generators had again been stolen. The facility's gates had also been damaged. Later interviews revealed that KERNER participated in the August 19th break-in as well as the August 18th break-in. He attempted to trade the Polaris ATV and the generator to other residents of Butte.
The government property that was stolen or damaged has a value in excess of $1,000.
KERNER faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
The investigation was conducted by the Law Enforcement and Investigations Division of the U.S. Forest Service.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.