James Robert Scott is an American who was found guilty of causing the Great Flood of 1993 in West Quincy, Missouri, which resulted in significant flooding of the Mississippi River.
He is currently imprisoned in Missouri, where he is serving a 20–life sentence.
The Great Flood of 1993 was a flood that occurred in the Midwestern United States from April to October 1993, along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries. With $15 billion in damages (about $27 billion in 2021 currency), the flood was one of the most expensive and catastrophic to ever occur in the United States.
The hydrographic basin affected an area 745 miles long and 435 miles wide, totaling roughly 320,000 square miles. The flooded area inside this zone was approximately 30,000 square miles.
About James Robert Scott
James Robert Scott was born on November 20, 1969.
Scott was raised in Quincy, Illinois. He had done time in six jails by the time he was in his thirties and had a criminal record. Two of these arrests were for arson, however, the majority were for small-time burglary. He destroyed Webster Elementary School in Quincy in 1982 by setting it on fire. He committed multiple fires and destroyed a garage in 1988, bringing him a seven-year prison sentence.
Scott was released from jail in 1993 after serving time for the 1988 fire. He spent most of his nights drinking heavily while working at a Burger King in Quincy. He and his wife Suzie lived in the nearby town of Fowler.
The Great Flood of 1993
During the Mississippi River flooding in 1993, the Scotts and many other residents from Quincy and Hannibal worked most of mid-July repairing the West Quincy levee.
The river had stopped rising by July 16 and had lowered 1.51 feet below the levee. However, the levee suddenly fell that night as the water burst through its main stem. On the Missouri side of the river, the following flood swamped 14,000 acres. A barge was pulled into a levee and smashed into a petrol station, creating a fire.
The flood destroyed all of the bridges in the region, which were the only connections over the river for 200 miles. While no one was killed, many Missourians were forced to drive 80 miles to St. Louis or Burlington, Iowa, fly, or use a ferry to cross the river for many weeks after the floods retreated. The Bayview Bridge, an important bridge, was closed for 71 days. Several businesses in West Quincy were also damaged, with the majority of them never reopening.
Two DOT workers at the bridge's edge informed reporter Michele McCormack of WGEM-TV, the NBC station in Quincy, that a guy standing nearby was the first on the scene. When she approached him, Scott offered to conduct a live interview with her and photographer Rick Junkerman.
Scott stated that he noticed a weak spot on the levee and attempted to reinforce it with extra sandbags. He then claimed to have gone for a drink, only to return to find the levee had slipped.
He then assisted the Coast Guard in loading boats into flooding. A similar story was repeated in a second interview with McCormack at his house, which aired after his arrest.
The reason Scott flooded West Quincy
Authorities on both sides of the river collaborated with federal investigators to investigate the situation. Their investigation finally led them to Joe Flachs, an old friend of Scott's. Scott informed Flachs that he had broken the levee in order to strand his wife, Suzie, on the Missouri side of the river. Suzie worked at a truck stop in Taylor, Missouri as a waitress.
Scott, according to the account, wanted to be free to party, fish, and have an affair. Later, investigators discovered other witnesses who said Scott boasted about breaching the levee at a party following the flood. In November 1994, Scott was sent to Missouri for a trial based on this evidence.
Scott was prosecuted under a 1979 Missouri law that made it a crime to purposefully cause a catastrophe. A catastrophe was defined by the statute, which is codified as Section 569.070 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. Because of the publicity, the trial was held in Kirksville, 68 miles west of West Quincy.
A 2 sides story
Prosecutors and investigators thought Scott removed or cut the plastic sheets protecting the levee, then burrowed through the sand until the water flowed in.
The defense relied heavily on two soil-science experts who testified that the levee fell due to natural causes. There had been 11 or 12 levee collapses upriver from West Quincy, according to David Hammer of the University of Missouri, while Charles Morris of the University of Missouri-Rolla claimed a last-minute decision to bring in bulldozers to build up the levee actually weakened its structural integrity.
The prosecution called multiple witnesses who claimed to have overheard Scott bragging about breaking the levee and pointed out inconsistencies in his testimony.
Following a three-day trial, the jury deliberated before convicting Scott of causing a catastrophe. He was sentenced to 10 years to life in prison a month later, to run concurrently with his 10-year burglary sentence in Illinois.
Scott affirms he is innocent
Scott appealed and the Missouri Court of Appeals overturned the conviction on February 25, 1997, alleging prosecutorial misconduct. Prosecutors had not informed the defense about two witnesses who allegedly heard Scott admit he purposefully broke the levee. He was retried in 1998 and convicted a second time on April 30 after three hours of deliberation. On July 6, the original sentence was restored.
Norman Haerr, the then-president of the Fabius River Drainage District and the largest owner of the land on the Missouri side of the river immediately affected by the flood, was among those who testified against James Scott.
According to a Vice News documentary, Haerr received an insurance settlement for land damage despite not having flood insurance. Haerr was allowed to collect on his homeowner's insurance since the flood was ruled to be the result of vandalism rather than a natural disaster. During Scott's trial, Haerr did not reveal his financial interest in his conviction.
Scott is now imprisoned at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, which is run by the Missouri Department of Corrections. He maintains his innocence.
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