WEBSTER PARISH, LA (KSLA) - All 6 Explo employees indicted on felony charges in an investigation into the improper storage of millions of pounds of military propellant at Camp Minden have pleaded not guilty.
Each employee arrived at the Webster Parish Courthouse at 9am with their attorneys leading the way up the steps. When asked if they had anything to say to the residents of Doyline, the town that was evacuated when the 10 million pounds of propellant was discovered, some said "no comment," others just remained silent and looked straight ahead as they walked to the courthouse.
Explo President David Fincher, Vice President David Alan Smith, Vice President of Production and Operations William Wright and employees Michael Kile, Lionel Koons, Todd Dietrich were arraigned in Webster Parish District Court Monday morning. They each are charged with unlawful storage of explosives, reckless storage of explosives, failure to obtain magazine license, failure to properly mark, explosive material, and failure to keep accurate inventory. There are also conspiracy charges for each of those, since more than two people were allegedly involved.
"Explosives laws in Louisiana have never been used in a criminal matter until now, this will be the first time, and fortunately they're real clear," said Webster D.A. Schuyler Marvin.
In previous interviews Marvin has said he believes those who were indicted knowingly stored the materials in a dangerous manner.
All of the charges except the inventory count carry sentences of five to 10 years in prison and fines of $5,000 to $20,000. All six remain free on bond.
Fincher is Explo Systems President. Smith is listed as Explo's Director, Secretary/Treasurer on the Louisiana Secretary of State's online registry of corporations.
Their indictments and arrests came after an eight-month investigation into the explosives recycling company's handling of at least 10 million pounds of the military propellant M6 at Camp Minden, a Louisiana National Guard installation in northwest Louisiana. Authorities say it was improperly stored, prompting an evacuation of the town of Doyline last year.
Those indictments came on June 10, three days after Explo filed suit against the Louisiana State Police to get their licenses and keys to the storage magazines back, claiming their constitutional right against unreasonable seizure and taking without just compensation were violated.
The company won a temporary restraining order in June and a Baton Rouge judge ruled last week that Explo could continue operating, but those operations will be limited to efforts to market and sell the product that's already there and not to produce more.
A trial date has been set for Nov. 4th.