A Raleigh businessman was acquitted today of all charges stemming from last summer's illegal dumping of toxic polychlorinated biphenls (PCBs) along 211 miles of state roads.
Robert Earl Ward Jr., 55, was found innoncent in Halifax County Superior Court. He had been charged with one count of conspiracy and two counts of being an accessory before the fact. If convicted, he could have faced up to 22 years in prison.
Ward hugged his crying wife and other family members after the verdict. He declined to comment to reporters.
The jury deliberated for four hours Monday and most of today. The trial began June 4.
The charges stemmed from the dumping of thousands of gallons of transformer oil containing PCBs along state roads in 14 counties and on federally owned land last June and July. The chemical remains along the roads.
Foreman Hugh Carroll said after the verdict that the jury felt Ward knew about the dumping after the fact but that prosecutors had not proved Ward knew of the dumping beforehand.
Ward and his son, still face federal charges in the case, State charges were dropped against the younger Ward last week.
Three New Yrok men pleaded guilty to state and federal charges in the case and testified against Ward in a plea agreement with prosecutors. They have not been sentenced.