Mistrial declared in retrial of former White Pass executive

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A mistrial was declared Thursday in the retrial of a former executive with the White Pass and Yukon Railroad after the jury announced that it was deadlocked.

Paul Taylor, the former president of the railroad, was tried last week for a second time on two felony charges of lying to government officials in connection with a 1994 oil spill by the railroad near Skagway.

The federal government has 70 days to retry Taylor.

''The case will be reassigned and reset for trial,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlie Brown.

Taylor was convicted in 1996 of two felony counts of lying to government officials and acquitted of seven other counts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his conviction last August, saying the judge had allowed inadmissible evidence.

Taylor was alleged to have had a piece of broken pipeline responsible for the spill altered to make a 15-inch crack look like a 2-inch hairline fracture. Prosecutors also said Taylor told the Coast Guard that oil from the spill had not reached the Skagway River, when it actually had. The spill was eventually estimated at up to 1,500 gallons.

U.S. District Court Judge James Fitzgerald sentenced Taylor to nine months in prison and fined him $10,000. Taylor has remained free during the appeals process, but has had to report in regularly to court officials on his whereabouts.

After a weeklong trial, the jury began its deliberations at noon Monday and announced Thursday morning that it was unable to reach a verdict.

Both Brown and defense attorney Tim Petumenos said they did not know why the jury had deadlocked.

''I'm pleased that I still have Mr. Taylor in a position where he's not convicted of anything. But the financial and psychological burden on the family of having this continuing on for so many years makes me feel bad for them,'' Petumenos said.

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