What James Pflueger’s up to now

I re-watched Last Week Tonight‘s infrastructure episode and that got me thinking about the Kaloko Dam collapse, which caused the deaths of six people and one unborn baby. James Pflueger, the owner of the dam, was sentenced to seven months in jail for reckless endangerment — that is, one month for every life taken. Four of the bodies — Timothy Noonan, Carl Rotstein, about-to-be-married Daniel Arroyo and toddler Rowan Dingwall — were never found.

I knew he would probably be out of prison by now, but I Googled “James Pflueger” in hopes of finding his obituary. Alas, I didn’t see any evidence that he’s dead, but I did find out he was released last year and placed on home detention only weeks into his ludicrously short sentence, due to poor health. I found this editorial about it, which explains the state HAD to release Pflueger because he’s in such poor health and they can’t take care of him. It says the compassionate releases like that happen all the time and it had nothing to do with the fact that Pflueger is richer than God.

It seems like some people get all the breaks. Pflueger’s gotten plenty, though whether his compassionate release was one of them or not I cannot say.

James Pflueger finally sentenced for his crimes

Per someone who wrote to me on Facebook, James Pflueger has finally been sentenced for causing the deaths of seven people and one unborn child when his dam collapsed and drowned them all in the ensuing 350,000,000-gallon flood. The bodies of four of the victims were never found: Timothy Noonan, Carl Rotstein, Daniel Arroyo and a toddler, Rowan Dingwall, whose parents were also killed.

Pflueger’s sentence? SEVEN MONTHS IN PRISON. Seven months, plus five years’ probation, and a $7,000 fine which is pennies to him as he’s worth millions of dollars. That’s only one month and one thousand dollars per person killed (minus Christina MacNees’s baby). Pflueger’s company has already paid a $50,000 fine for each victim — money to go to the state. So one month in prison and $51,000 — that’s how much a person’s life is worth in the state of Hawaii, which is also partially responsible for what happened because they failed to perform required inspections on Pflueger’s dam. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

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.