CLEVELAND - ''I'm sorry for everything I did,'' Michael Guesman said to Federal Court Judge Donald Nugent Thursday morning. ''I hope you understand I did it under the direction of Mr. (Benedict) Lupo.''
Moments after hearing Guesman apologize, Nugent sentenced the man accused of pouring possibly hundreds of thousands of gallons of brine and mud down Youngstown sewers that eventually ended up in the Mahoning River to three years probation and 300 hours of community service.
He also is to pay a $100 fine. He is not required to pay restitution.
Nugent told the 34-year-old Cortland resident he was fortunate he was able to convince those that did his pre-sentence investigation that he was truthful during their investigation and that he has been working to turn his life around.
Guesman has agreed to testify against his former boss and co-defendant, Lupo, who owned Youngstown-based D&L Energy, Hardrock Excavating and at least one other oil and gas company, in his upcoming trial, however that might not happen.
Lupo, 62, who has pleaded not guilty to dumping the oilfield waste, is scheduled to appear Monday in Nugent's court for a change of plea hearing.
Guesman's attorney, Carolyn Kucharski, told the court her client was instructed to dump the waste after hours and when he began to feel ''what was being done'' was maybe wrong and questioned it, ''Mr. Lupo suggested he would take responsibility and would pay any fines.''
Lupo approached Guesman in November 2012 about pouring some of the brine that was stored in 20,000 storage tanks on the company's property down a storm water drain. The fear was if the company could not handle the amount of brine it was receiving it would lose the contract.
Under the direction of an unnamed supervisor and Lupo, Guesman continued pouring the brine down the storm sewer drain over a two month period. It was not everyday, but was done regularly.
''He (Guesman) felt uncomfortable," said Kucharski. ''He argued with his supervisor, but feared he would lose his job.''
Lupo, according to Kucharski, recently agreed to make restitution for the damage caused by pouring the brine down the stormwater drain.
The fact that Guesman did not have a previous federal court record, the cooperation he provided investigators, and work he has done to uplift himself and his family combined to help Nugent decide to give him three years probation, without any jail time.
''You've worked hard to get where you are today,'' Nugent said. ''You convinced the person doing the pre-sentencing investigation that you played a minor role. A lot of people supported you. You dodged a major bullet.''
Guesman worked his way up from a laborer to a welder at Hardrock Excavating and he has continued to take other educational courses, including obtaining his GED.
Guesman's new employer was one of the people one wrote to the court describing him as having value to the community.
The new employer and other information has been placed under court ordered seal to protect it and the defendant.
Kucharski said the sentence given by the court was appropriate considering the facts in the case.
"I'm happy that it turned out this way for Michael," she said.