Veteran serving time in federal prison for digging ponds

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DENVER -- Friends of 77-year-old Joe Robertson describe him as self reliant, kind and gentle.

"He has a kind heart.  He served our country. He's a veteran," said Lindsay Szymanski, a friend of Robertson's.

Robertson owns property near Big Limber Gulch in Jefferson County, Mont.

He excavated several ponds on his property for livestock and fire mitigation. But the Environmental Protection Agency did not like that idea and told him to stop.  Robertson, with his stubborn side showing, dug the ponds nevertheless.

The EPA alleged Robertson allowed dirt from the ponds to enter a tributary of nearby Cataract Creek.

The federal agency subsequently charged and convicted Robertson of three counts of destruction and degradation of publicly owned property.  He was sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison.

The merits of the conviction are troubling to family and friends but right now, their first concern is Robertson's health.

"He is in Colorado being abused and neglected.  He's being denied visitors. He's isolated. They put in solitary, (confinement) for a week," Szymanski said.

Physically weak, Robertson said he recently passed out in a prison counselor's office.

"They accused me of faking this. They gave me a cane and told me I could go. They brought me up in an elevator in a wheelchair and I had to walk down three flights of stairs," he said.

Robertson's family and supporters have been in touch with Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner's office. They are looking into the allegations of medical neglect.

"I don't know why I have to endure the for putting ponds on my property," Robertson said.

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