This really makes me mad

The Charley Project does not normally profile victims of disasters such as volcanic eruptions, floods, etc. I made an exception for the disappearances of Carl Rotstein, Daniel Arroyo, Timothy Noonan and Rowan Dingwall, though. The main reason was because I was so outraged by what had happened to them that I felt I had to tell their story. I’m not going to bother to repeat all the background details here; just click on any of the names and you can learn the details of that tragic event that claimed so many lives.

I updated the cases today. I thought to look up and see whether James Pflueger had finally faced a reckoning for the seven manslaughter charges or not. He’d used various machinations to delay his trial for years, and I half-expected him to die before justice could be served; he’s 87 years old now. This excellent article/editorial explains the situation better than I can, but in case you want to read my version of it, continue below:

It turns out that last summer Pflueger did, finally, flesh out a deal with prosecutors: a deal that’s very favorable to him. His COMPANY took responsibility for the seven deaths. And, since you can’t put a corporation in jail (even if corporations are people, legally speaking), it was sentenced to a fine of $50k per head. That’s what a person’s life is worth in Hawaii, apparently.

I might add that Pflueger’s personal worth is over $71 million. So this $350,000 fine is, like, a week’s pay to him. To add insult to injury, the money isn’t even going to Pflueger’s living victims or to the families of the dead. The state’s taking it and has promised to spend it on dam inspections. (If the state had been doing their job re: dam inspections in the first place, this disaster would never have happened.)

As for Mr. Pflueger, it’s been almost a year since he pleaded to one measly count of reckless endangerment and he has yet to be sentenced. He keeps pleading ill health. They are expecting the judge to sentence him to five years’ probation, although he could get *gasp* up to a year in prison. (Maybe he’ll get house arrest. That is to say, mansion arrest, or estate arrest…)

If they actually do make him to serve time, I suppose he’ll probably appeal that, saying it would be cruel to put a sick old man in jail, and while his appeal is pending he’ll die peacefully at home in his own bed. And you just know that if Pflueger wasn’t so obscenely rich he would be in jail right now.

Meanwhile, seven lives were lost — six people and one unborn baby — and this at what should have been a time of celebration, right before Daniel Arroyo and Christina MacNees’s wedding and Rowan’s birthday. All because of Mr. Pflueger’s greed. And he doesn’t seem to be one bit sorry, and it doesn’t look like he’ll pay for his crimes in this lifetime.

12 thoughts on “This really makes me mad

  1. Sheila May 13, 2014 / 3:42 pm

    This is so ridiculously paltry a sentence that it practically encourages corporations and their rich owners to be irresponsible.

    • Meaghan May 15, 2014 / 2:07 pm


      I am also thinking: how can his health be SO BAD he can’t travel to court for sentencing? If that was the case, why not sentence him via Skype? I know sometimes they have criminals “attend” court hearings via closed-circuit cameras if for some reason they can’t make it in person. And how unhealthy does a person have to be that they can’t serve five years’ probation?

  2. Mion May 13, 2014 / 5:36 pm

    Aaand this is why you don’t allow businesses/corporations to regulate themselves. Add this to the list of disasters that could have been prevented through regulation/inspection: the BP oil spill, the fertilizer plant explosion in West Texas, the chemical spill in West Virginia that left over 300,000 people without clean water for weeks …

    • Meaghan May 13, 2014 / 6:07 pm

      I don’t understand how the Pflueger could have just refused to let the DLNR inspect his dam. The inspections were required by LAW. In theory, the DLNR could have got a court order to inspect, and he would have had to let them do it or be jailed. The only thing I can think of is either the DLNR was just lazy, or Pflueger used his connections to avoid their oversight, or some combination of the two.

      • Mion May 14, 2014 / 12:28 pm

        I don’t get that part. The DLNR goes ”Hey, we need to inspect your dam”, Pflueger refuses to allow them access to the dam, and the DLNR is like ”Ok, you win” and walks away? Someone refusing to let me evaluate it would make me think they’re hiding something, and I’d want to inspect it even more.

        I wonder if Pflueger had any friends in the DLNR. That’s the only way it’d make sense to me that they’d just give up on inspecting the dam.

  3. humbled_observer May 14, 2014 / 7:55 am

    if i understand correctly, the victims families won’t even see the money. it goes to the government. what a sickening story.

    • Meaghan May 14, 2014 / 2:35 pm

      The victims’ families sued Pflueger and won but he has yet to pay any of the money to them besides interest. He even COUNTERSUED the Dingwall family, as if it was their fault his dam overflowed and killed them.

      Guy sounds like a psychopath, or at least pathologically greedy.

      • Ian Dingwall May 18, 2014 / 7:20 am

        It wasn’t the Dingwall family (That’s me an my mother), he countersued the Fehrings.

      • Meaghan May 18, 2014 / 9:06 am

        Sorry, my bad. I don’t understand how the Fehrings could be to blame either though.

        I’m sorry for your having lost your son, grandson and daughter-in-law. This was such a terrible event, the more so because it was preventable.

  4. Angie May 14, 2014 / 1:25 pm

    There are two justice systems. One for the rich, and one for everyone else. I’m not religious, but I hope there’s a hell just so this guy can rot in it.

    • Meaghan May 14, 2014 / 2:28 pm

      My friend Wendy says we don’t have a justice system, we have a courts system.

      • Kat May 14, 2014 / 8:21 pm

        A legal system. That’s the truth. With laws so convoluted and self serving in cases that it is utterly disgusting. I can’t even comment too much on this case because it makes me sick. A whole family and others wiped out because of negligence. Sickening.

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