Driver on trial: Waste authority witness faces extortion charge

news-kendrickRichard W. Kendrick seen here in a January 1993 inmate photo.

The star witness in the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority lawsuit against recycling entrepreneur Peter Van der Linde will appear in a Fluvanna County courtroom on Thursday to face an extortion charge that grew out of the lawsuit. Despite a lengthy felony record that's put him behind bars for about two of his life's five decades, the accused man says he has faith the justice system will exonerate him this time.

"I have no doubt in my mind that I am going to win this case," says Richard Wade Kendrick of Palmyra. The 50-year-old former driver for Van der Linde Containers and Recycling says he's no extortionist–- that he was merely trying to get enough money for the legal fees he was expecting to pay when he found out his boss was denying he'd asked the drivers to lie.

The inside of a courtroom may be a familiar if an unwelcome setting for Kendrick. By his own admission, after serving nearly 12 years of 178 years worth of sentences for felonies including multiple grand larcenies, he was released in September 2003 and went to work the following year for Van der Linde's Fluvanna County facility–- "the longest I ever held a job," he says–– until last April, when he was fired days after sending his boss a letter demanding $90,000 in exchange for keeping silent about an alleged conspiracy.

Rather than paying the money, Van der Linde took the letter to Fluvanna authorities, who charged Kendrick with extortion.

"He was trying to get money from his boss," says Fluvanna Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Haislip. "He threatened Mr. Van der Linde."

But the criminal charge hasn't swayed the Authority away from Kendrick as a witness.

Kendrick's testimony remains a key piece of the Authority's ongoing suit against Van der Linde, as Kendrick appears to be the only one of over 20 company trash drivers willing to testify to what Authority director Tom Frederick alleges: that over a period of approximately two years, Van der Linde dodged around a million dollars in Authority service fees by having drivers lie about the origins of refuse.

The Authority board has supported Frederick in initially pressing the lawsuit as a $3.5 million debt-collection action, but the body recently cranked it up to a $20 million action under the civil portion of RICO, the federal Racketeer Influenced Corruption act.

Since then, while some wags suggest that the Authority is out of control, Frederick and Kendrick insist that Van der Linde is the one who needs a rein.

Van der Linde has publicly admitted that not paying the service fee "saved" his business in the beginning, when BFI (now Republic Services)–- the company running the Authority-sponsored station in Zion Crossroads–- charged a total tipping fee of just $46 per ton. He insists he never instructed his drivers to lie and points to the Authority's own documents which show multi-year periods when BFI didn't collect the fees, a clear violation of BFI's Authority contract.

Van der Linde's attorney, Lamar Garren, notes that three other Van der Linde drivers have been deposed, and allegedly none have supported Kendrick's "extremely suspect" story.

While RSWA attorney Jonathan Blank did not return a reporter's call, legal analyst David Heilberg doubts that Kendrick's extensive history of "lying, cheating, and stealing" crimes will go over well in a courtroom.

"He had no credibility before he allegedly committed extortion," says Heilberg. "Why would he be the only one to be coming forward?"

Kendrick, however, says his felony record shouldn't blind anyone to his concern, not only for himself, but for his fellow drivers.

"We were doing what our bosses told us to do," says Kendrick, noting that with 153 years of a suspended sentence hanging over him, he became frightened when Van der Linde said in a Hook article that he hadn't instructed drivers to lie.

"Now," he says, "23 drivers have committed fraud for Peter Van der Linde."

The undated, rambling typewritten letter (p.1, p.2) Kendrick sent to Van der Linde in late April mentions a need for an attorney and demands the $90,000–- tax free–- "to cover any legal fees that may come on me."

His second demand appears more altruistic: "You will give each of the employees of the container rental company a job till 2012."

Under Virginia law, demands don't constitute extortion unless coupled with a threat. And Kendrick's letter might seem to issue one in its final lines.

"For I will ask my attorney to call and set me up an appointment with the United States District Attorney. So Tom Frederick and I can set down with the government for a long talk. And with my mind and mouth, they can take container rentals and the recycling away from you."

Considering his new role as the Authority's star witness, Kendrick might appear to have delivered on the vow, but he remains steadfast in his assertion that he did nothing wrong.

"How am I extorting something from this man," he asks, "when this man has put my life and freedom in jeopardy?"

Kendrick's case will be heard in Fluvanna County Circuit Court on Thursday, December 10. He has subpoenaed nine witnesses including Hook reporter Dave McNair (who has been asked only to "stipulate" that what he has previously written about the case is accurate).


I think the new angle is that BFI has breached its contract with the RSWA and now the RSWA should be directing their trash to Mr. van der Linde's more environmentally sustainable facility. I believe that would be doing a service to the residents they have a fiduciary responsibility to serve!

If the suite is really against Mr. van der Linde's hauling company, the RSWA should have no issue supporting his Recycling Facility. Right Tom Frederick?

Who's at the helm here in Charlottesville?

I agree if the fans at UVA can have a new football coach we sure deserve a new director of RSWA . How much will it cost to buy Frederick out of his contract --bet we could raise that from city/county donors in an hour.

Groh must go, seemed to work--how about Frederick must go, at the next City Council and Board of Supervisor meetings.

I am shocked that our elected officials have sat back and watched this mess unfold. Anyone could see this coming, the recycling facility has been in the works for over a year, and RSWA has tried everything they could to prevent it from opening but the DEQ withstood all the complaints and gave Van der Linde the permit. All these awards for being green and they allow their trash to go to a landfill, when it could be recycled. Please explain

What a sad guy. He's toast. If Mr. Blank or Mr. Frederick, in any way encouraged him to testify against Mr. Van der Linde; he should spill the beans. He will be a hero, both for the community and the DEQ, who have been repeatedly harassed by this bunch.

Mr. Kendrick , tell the truth, did they put you up to this or in any way encourage you ?

From what I read here, more power to him in being found not guilty if he really believes that is going to happen.

It seems like his "life and freedom" has been put in jeopardy because of his demand for money, and the consequences (threat) if not paid.

Will be an interesting case to watch. And an even more interesting defense to watch.

The RWSA finds new and expensive ways to waste our money.
This guy, a felon many times over, is taking down a local
business man despite uncolaborating stories from other drivers.
Give me a break, the RWSA needs to be restructured so they serve the public good. I feel what they want is to hang on to their high paying jobs.

Isn't there some other agency that can control and oversee the reckless actions of the RWSA? Hopefully, it will be considered a frivolous lawsuit and thrown out. Someone other than the taxpayers should be held accountable for the legal fees from a frivolous lawsuit. This seems to validate the incompetent way they have handled the whole dredging issue. Let's hope that wiser minds will be prevail.

If the guy was lying... why has he taken it so far?.ever wonder bout that?.. liars dont like to goto court. This guy is risking everything to prove the truth. If he was lying, do you really think he would be pergureing hisself??...

@meme me, he's not going to court, he's being taken to court.
" Let’s hope that wiser minds will be prevail." Have we elected any?

What a mess: handed to us on a platter by RSWA, without the stupid lawsuit against Van der linde this guy would have a job, be off the streets, and would not be a danger to society. This sure looks like a windfall profit for Kurt Krueger, RSWA's lawyer, and Jonathan Blank, the McGuire Woods lawyer, prosecuting the case against Van der Linde, and for the whole McGuire Woods Law firm: that stands to make tens of thousands, maybe millions, from this and all the other legal proceedings stemming from this ridiculous RICO suit. And guess who is paying for it, if you live in Charlottesville or Albemarle and now Fluvanna ---YOU !!!!

Would like to request that the Hook keep a running tally of what this is costing taxpayers from these three jurisdictions.

mm, please read the article.

I am so mad at the RSWA. They started this whole thing. This guy would never have gone off the deep-end if they hadn't sued Mr. Van der Linde. Any ideas how to stop their frivolous lawsuit?

I've lived here a long time and I am ashamed of everyone involved in this the lawsuit against Mr. Van der Linde, including our elected officials.

@Danica, our elected officials are obviously not competent in this area.