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Explo Systems ex-owner drops Camp Minden sentence appeal

January 22, 2019
FILE - This 2012 aerial file photo provided by the Louisiana State Police shows a portion of the M6 artillery propellant improperly stored outside Explo Systems Inc., a munitions dismantling facility at Camp Minden in Minden, La. The former owner of a company that left thousands of tons of the potentially explosive artillery propellant at the Louisiana National Guard facility has dropped an appeal of his sentence. A codefendant's sentencing appeal remains before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (Louisiana State Police via AP, File)

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 has dropped an appeal of his sentence.

Meanwhile, a codefendant’s sentencing appeal remains before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Former Explo Systems Inc. owner David Alan Smith and program manager Keneth Wayne Lampkin were among five defendants who pleaded guilty in what a prosecutor called the nation’s worst-ever dumping of military explosives. All five were sentenced Nov. 29 in federal court in Shreveport.

The New Orleans-based 5th Circuit on Tuesday dismissed Smith’s appeal, as requested by the 63-year-old resident of Winchester, Kentucky. Smith’s filing last week said only that he had decided to drop the appeal after talking with his lawyers. He had begun appeal proceedings in December.

Online court records show Lampkin’s appeal remains active. Federal public defender Betty Marak has not filed a brief with Lampkin’s arguments.

Explo Systems had an $8.7 million Army contract to “demilitarize” artillery charges at a 15,000-acre (6,100-hectare) Louisiana National Guard facility called Camp Minden. Louisiana State Police began investigating it in 2012, after a thunderous explosion shattered windows miles away, created a 7,000-foot (2,130-meter) mushroom cloud and derailed 11 nearby rail cars.

State government had to clean up 7,800 tons (7,100 metric tons) of potentially explosive M6 and 160 tons (145 metric tons) of clean-burning igniter, much of it outdoors or otherwise stored unsafely.

The company went bankrupt in 2013.

Plans to burn the material in the open sparked a public outcry. The Army eventually paid a Baton Rouge company $32 million to create a large enclosed chamber in which the material could be burned and the air inside scrubbed clean of pollutants.

Smith pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and to making false statements, and was sentenced to 4 years and 7 months in prison and to pay $34.8 million restitution. On Dec. 20, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote recommended he be sent to a prison near his home.

Lampkin was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in prison and ordered to pay $149,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to making false statements. Three other 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 $449,000.

The restitution adds up to $35.4 million. Prosecutors said it includes the $8.7 million contract plus cleanup costs.

Explo Systems co-owner David Fincher of Burns, Tennessee, died days before he was scheduled for trial.

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