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‘Oblivious’ Clinton County Polluter Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — A Clinton County “environmental terrorist” who created significant public hazards by illegally burning wood paneling, drywall, processed wood, plastic and other solid wastes has been sentenced to two years in prison on his second conviction for open burning, Attorney General Dave Yost announced today.

Jason Wallace, 46, of the unincorporated community of Cuba, was sentenced Aug. 9 in Clinton County Common Pleas Court after being found guilty in July of two counts of illegal open burning of solid waste, an unclassified felony, and two counts of causing air pollution, a misdemeanor.

“Some people just won't learn that if you play with fire, you are bound to get burned,” Yost said. “I appreciate the help of our environmental partners at the Ohio EPA, Wilmington Fire Department and Clinton County Sheriff’s Office in halting this illegal activity.”  

The open-burning charges against Wallace stem from separate offenses – one in 2020 and the other last year.

In the first incident, the Wilmington Fire Department received a call on Sept. 30, 2020, about smoke that smelled “toxic.” When firefighters arrived in Cuba, they found Wallace, who claimed that he was burning wood to clean up the property.

Wilmington Lt. Brant Schmitt, however, reported seeing wood paneling, drywall, processed wood, plywood, cardboard, plastic, a nylon bag and a hairbrush in the fire – and a charred wheel rim nearby. 

During Wallace’s trial, Lt. Schmitt testified that Wallace had been warned previously not to open-burn solid wastes yet ignored the warnings.

In the second incident, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office in February 2021 responded to a report from an Ohio EPA investigator about burning on another property. Deputies found Wallace burning bags of trash on a utility trailer, including plastic containers, soda cans and bottles.

In sentencing Wallace to prison, the judge cited Wallace’s “history of poor decision-making” and his “lengthy and significant criminal history.” 

“The court finds [the] defendant to be an environmental terrorist completely oblivious to the harm his misconduct causes to the community and his neighbors,” the judge wrote. “The [d]efendant shows no remorse and remains a continuing threat to the public.”

Yost’s Environmental Enforcement Section prosecuted the case, with the investigation conducted by the Environmental Enforcement Unit of the attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Ohio EPA’s Special Investigations Unit.

Hannah Hundley:614-906-9113