Fecal fall-out: Driver charged in DMB dumping


Prosecutors filed charges January 19 against the Dave Matthews Band tour bus driver accused of dumping 800 pounds of human waste onto a sightseeing boat on the Chicago River last summer.

The driver, Stefan Wohl, is charged with misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct and discharging contaminates to cause water pollution, Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine said. The charges carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and up to $10,000 fine if Wohl is convicted.

Wohl, 42, of Selma, Texas, turned himself in to Chicago police and was released on his own recognizance, authorities said. His attorney, Mark Rotert, did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press for comment.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has also filed a civil lawsuit seeking $70,000 in damages against the band and driver alleging they violated state environmental laws.

According to authorities, Wohl was alone in the bus and driving to a downtown hotel on August 8 when he allegedly emptied the bus's septic tank as it crossed the metal grates of the Kinzie Street bridge.

The waste poured through the grates and onto the open deck of Chicago's Little Lady tour boat, which was passing below with more than 100 people aboard.

The boat immediately returned to its dock and was later cleaned with disinfectant, and officials with the Chicago Architectural Foundation, which operates the tour, offered refunds. They also said they have received several calls from angry passengers who demanded compensation for clothing and personal items.

Assistant State's Attorney Robert Egan said Wohl talked to investigators shortly after the incident and, while he acknowledged driving the bus over the river, "he denied having discharged any waste over the bridge.''

Prosecutors used surveillance tapes to zero in on the bus and consulted with engineers about the releasing of the waste.

"We were satisfied with what they told us that it could not have been an accident,'' Egan said.

He said prosecutors considered filing felony charges against Wohl but decided against it after determining nobody was injured.

Shortly after the incident, the band issued a statement on its website saying that if the bus was found to be responsible, the band would "work quickly to make amends, with the people on the boat and with Chicago.''

The band has since donated $50,000 to the Friends of the Chicago River and $50,000 to the Chicago Park District.