The “big nothing burger” the State Attorney’s Office in Bay County served last week in its case for commercial littering against Okaloosa business owner Todd Schweizer has been relegated to the dust bin of judicial history.
Circuit Judge Brantley Clark took the rare step of granting a defense motion for a judgment of acquittal and clearing Schweizer of all charges, according to Harry Harper, his defense attorney.
Prosecutors spent about an hour presenting their case prior to the ruling, which effectively ended the trial.
“The ruling kind of speaks to the absence of evidence in the case. It was one of those cases that it made no sense to bring. There was no evidence he was here (in Bay County) or that he dumped anything,” Harper said. “It was a big nothing burger. I knew the judge would throw it out.”
Assistant State Attorney Frank Sullivan did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Schweizer, whose several business interests include FUBAR Pizza Bar on Okaloosa Island, for several years owned Coyote Land Company Inc., which operated several landfills, including the Coyote Panama City Waste Processing Facility in Bay County. He was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
The Bay County landfill was declared an environmental hazard in 2011 and ordered shut down, and shortly thereafter Coyote Land Company abandoned the property, leaving the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other entities with no choice but to clean it and close it.
The closure was completed in 2014, according to DEP spokeswoman Brandy Smith.
Schweizer was charged with a felony in Bay County in 2016 when the State Attorney’s Office for the 14th Judicial Circuit accused him of commercial littering in excess of 500 pounds. The charge was associated with his operation of the Coyote Panama City Waste Processing Facility and named Coyote Land Company Inc. as a co-defendant.
Charging documents said Schweizer and his company “did unlawfully dump, place or disposes of” litter “for commercial purposes on private property and, in doing so, did cause a public nuisance or did otherwise violate” the law.
The Bay County landfill was one of four facilities Schweizer’s company operated and later abandoned, “without closing them in accordance with department orders,” according to emailed comments from Smith provided following the 2016 arrest.
The DEP completed the necessary work to certify the Coyote East landfill facility, near Freeport, as closed in November 2017, Smith said in a Wednesday email.
“We also have a contract in place with Walton County for the closure of the Coyote West facility and are currently in the design phase for that project,” Smith said in a Wednesday email.
DEP is working now to initiate final closure of the Coyote Navarre site in Santa Rosa County, “and expect closure to begin after completion of the bid solicitation process,” Smith said.