Deal reached in criminal grease-dumping case

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WALLA WALLA — A restaurant co-owner who admitted he dumped grease and chemicals on a lawn in a Walla Walla neighborhood is subject to two years of community and judicial accountability, according to Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney James Nagle.

James B. Sanders, 124 E. Main St., was charged with second-degree malicious mischief and three counts of second-degree criminal trespass for dumping dishwashing chemicals, grease and food debris several times over 10 months on the lawn of YMCA Executive Director Randy Grant. The mixture, which he hauled from his restaurant in plastic totes, ran into the street and soaked into the ground, killing grass and plants.

Sanders, 46, a former YMCA director and now co-owner to Public House 124 restaurant, appeared in Walla Walla County Superior Court on Monday to agree to a stipulated order of continuance while waiving his right to a speedy trial.

He must comply with conditions that include paying $1,618.23 in restitution to Grant for damage to his lawn, undergoing a mental-health diagnosis, plus drug and alcohol evaluations. Sanders must commit no new crimes, as well as admit to, explain and apologize for those he was charged.

Completion of the terms will reduce felony charges to a gross misdemeanor. If he does not comply, Sanders will be automatically found guilty of the felony crime and sentenced accordingly.

Nagle said he agreed to the order in light of wide disparity of estimates for the lawn damage. To reach felony level, the cost must reach $750 — estimates from area landscapers came in below and above that figure, he said.

Grant read a statement in court expressing disappointment in the plea deal.

“Mr. Sanders, your actions caused great emotional upheaval in our life, our home and impacted our neighborhood for over 10 months,” he said. “We still don’t have a reason why.”

Nagel said the arrangement is a way to try to change a person’s behavior by putting him under community surveillance.

“It’s not the easy way out,” he said. “He’ll have to keep his nose extremely clean. He’ll have to keep it spotless.”

Deborah Daly, 59, entered a guilty plea in Walla Walla County District Court last month to making false or misleading statements to a public servant about the grease-dumping incident.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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