A developer faces jail time and a record-setting restitution bill in Connecticut after pleading guilty to causing an “ecological disaster” in Fairfield.
Jason Julian, 54, who is also a former Barnum Festival ringmaster, entered a guilty plea under the Alford Doctrine for six misdemeanor criminal environmental charges, including discharging hazardous materials into Connecticut waters, illegally disposing of PCBs, and engaging in an illegal dumping operation, the Connecticut Post reported.
Superior Court Judge Tracy Lee Dayton said that it was the state’s largest and costliest environmental crime.
The charges stemmed from Julian’s actions between 2018 and 2020 when he allegedly dumped truckloads of contaminated soil at parks and playgrounds in Fairfield, turning a designated debris management site into an environmental hazard.
The illegal disposal included hazardous materials such as PCBs and led to an extensive cleanup estimated to cost over $40 million, according to Fairfield officials.
In 2013, Julian Development was hired by the town to manage a debris site, but over three years, it grew to nearly 3 acres and contained hazardous materials. Julian also sold debris from the site to the town as clean fill for various construction projects, including the Penfield Pavilion foundation.
Under the plea deal, Julian will be sentenced to 18 months in prison and must pay $2.5 million in restitution to the town of Fairfield on January 29. The Alford Doctrine means he does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence for him to be convicted at trial.
As part of the agreement, Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Tamberlyn Chapman dropped larceny and forgery charges against Julian.
Fairfield officials said they weren’t happy with the criminal outcome, but noted the plea deal does not resolve any civil action against Julian. (The $2.5 million restitution may be applied to any claimed civil losses).
The guilty plea concludes a four-year investigation by Fairfield police and the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.
Three former town officials had previously pleaded guilty in connection with the dumping scandal. Scott Bartlett, former Fairfield superintendent of public works, received a five-year prison sentence; Joseph Michelangelo, former director of public works, awaits sentencing; and former town financial officer Robert Mayor received a suspended sentence.
— Ted Glanzer