Prosecutors Request Guilty Plea Hearing For Top Executive Charged In W.Va. Chemical Spill

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to schedule a guilty plea hearing for the top executive charged in a massive chemical spill last year.

In Charleston on Wednesday, prosecutors filed the request for former Freedom Industries President Gary Southern’s hearing.

Southern faces federal pollution and bankruptcy fraud charges. He previously pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors generally file guilty plea hearings when a defendant has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge or charges, said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.

In January 2014, a Freedom Industries tank leak in Charleston spurred a tap-water ban for 300,000 people for days. The West Virginia governor issued a state of emergency order that evening at 9:30 p.m. On January 10, 2014, the president declared that an emergency existed in West Virginia and announced federal assistance.

Four other ex-Freedom officials and the company itself have pleaded guilty to federal pollution violations.