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Contractor Gets Prison in Asbestos Case

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Glendale man convicted of illegally burying asbestos in Canyon Country was sentenced Tuesday to two years in state prison, which the prosecutor called an unusually stiff sentence for an environmental crime.

“I really have only heard of four or five other cases where we, state prosecutors, obtained a state prison sentence,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Brodney, who has five years experience in his office’s environmental crimes division.

Wesley Mitchell Burnett, 33, was found guilty in April of three felony counts of dumping the hazardous waste at a site called Crocker Ranch. San Fernando Superior Court Judge William McLaughlin passed sentence and ordered Burnett, who was free on bail, into custody. He also fined Burnett $21,000.

Burnett owned Cal Coast Construction, a Canyon Country company that handled asbestos removal, primarily at government-owned buildings, Brodney said.

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A jury convicted Burnett of transporting and illegally dumping asbestos at the site near Warmuth Road and Rolling Hills Avenue on two occasions in 1986. The waste was buried by employees of his firm, and was not uncovered until soil used to cover about 350 bags of the hazardous material began to erode, Brodney said.

However, an investigation into the illegal dumping started in 1991 after Burnett pleaded guilty to another felony charge of illegal waste disposal after a sting operation, Brodney said. Burnett was given probation and served six months in County Jail in that case.

When former employees saw news accounts of Burnett’s conviction, several came forward and reported illegal hazardous material dumping at the Canyon Country site, Brodney said.

Several ex-employees of Cal Coast Construction testified during Burnett’s trial that he ordered the illegal disposal and that he was present when asbestos was illegally moved and buried at a nearby location.

The site of the illegal dumping has been cleaned up and has been graded for the construction of luxury homes, the prosecutor said.

Burnett’s father, Earl Jacob (John) Burnett, 50, was sentenced in May to two years probation and fined $5,000 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge. The elder Burnett previously owned the dumping site.


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