Krister Evertson is the kind of person all good conservationists should honor. He spent his life’s work in pursuit of an economical, clean-energy fuel cell that could generate power without polluting the air. However, that endeavor lead to two prosecutions and 13 months in federal prison.
To help fund his research, Krister sold excess sodium on eBay from his Alaska home. Because of the explosive nature of sodium, federal regulations require that it be shipped by ground rather than air. Krister packaged the sodium appropriately and shipped it “ground delivery” to the buyer. He was unaware that, given Alaska’s unique location, even “ground delivery” from Alaska travels by air and that a special label was required to keep the shipment from flying to its destination.
On May 27, 2004, federal agents in two black SUVs, waving assault rifles, forced Krister’s car off the road. Manhandling him as if he were a terrorist, they arrested, interrogated, and jailed him. For what? Putting the wrong shipping label—with the correct instructions, mind you—on a box of raw sodium that he sold on eBay.
A jury saw that it was an honest mistake and found Krister “not guilty.” But while Krister was on trial, sodium from his experiments sat in steel drums at an industrial warehouse. The Environmental Protection Agency learned of the additional sodium, determined that Krister had “abandoned” it, and charged him with a federal crime.
Although Krister’s expert witness testified that the sodium was stored properly, a jury found Krister guilty. He served 13 months in federal prison and eight more in a halfway house.
When onerous regulations that don’t allow for honest mistakes are enforced with criminal penalties, even well-meaning people can end up criminals.
This week, The Heritage Foundation launches USA vs. YOU—a project that spotlights the flood of criminal laws threatening our liberties. Explore more stories and find out what you can do to reverse this trend