Sheriff revokes gun permit of Freedom cleanup company owner
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Sheriff's Department has revoked the concealed weapons permit of the man whose company has been cleaning up Freedom Industries' tank farm on the Elk River.
Daniel Kessler, who owns Diversified Services, the cleanup company, had his permit revoked on Wednesday after the Sheriff's Department read a Gazette article that said he was sentenced to a spousal abuse program after a 1995 assault conviction in Maryland.
"After reading your article we contacted authorities in Maryland and asked for more information," Cpl. Brian Humphreys, Sheriff's Department spokesman, told the Gazette.
Humphreys said the Sheriff's Department first issued the weapons permit in 2011, and it was re-issued in 2013 when Kessler changed his address.
"In 2011, they didn't have any information that he went to a spousal abuse program and that the initial underlying charges were domestic violence," Humphreys said.
In 1995, Kessler pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery in Annapolis, Md. In return, prosecutors dropped four other charges, including assault with intent to murder and reckless endangerment.
Kessler was sentenced to six months in jail, five years probation and was ordered to complete a spousal abuse program, according to Maryland court records.
"We're basing that off of the spousal abuse program," Humphreys said of the decision to revoke the permit. "It's enough for the sheriff to make the decision."
Federal law bans any person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from possessing a firearm.
Both Diversified Services and Freedom Industries, the company responsible for the chemical leak that contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 people, are under federal investigation.
Federal investigators, including the FBI, were at Diversified Services' headquarters in St. Albans last week.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, who is conducting the investigation, said Thursday he could not comment on any aspect of it, but it is ongoing.
A neighbor reported that she saw investigators confiscating a rifle there, and that Kessler's wife said it was her husband's gun.
But Kessler's lawyer, Tom Scarr, said Thursday that investigators did not take a gun from Kessler. And an FBI inventory of confiscated items lists computers, USB drives, tax records and other documents, but does not list a gun as being confiscated.
Scarr also said they have not been told what the investigation is about.
"We have no clue," Scarr said. "It makes it difficult to respond to the many accusations that are out there."
Freedom Industries has agreed to tear down its Elk River tank farm. Its plan for doing that -- how and in what order -- was made public by the state Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday.
That plan says that Freedom will request bids from contractors, but also mentions Diversified as the company that will cut into the faulty tank that leaked the chemical Crude MCHM into the Elk.
A spokesman for the DEP said that they have been assured that if Diversified is not able to do its job because of the federal investigation, that the company will be replaced and there will be no interruption in work at the site.
The DEP announced last week that it was also investigating a suspected chemical leak at Diversified's location in St. Albans. There have been years of complaints of chemical leaks and odors at that facility.
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