Mitchell Co. brothers to pay $47K in legal fees to Sabal Trail

LEE CO., GA (WALB) - James and Robert Bell own 100 acres of land in Mitchell County.

They lost an eminent domain case against Sabal Trail, which got a piece of their land to build their natural gas pipeline to Florida.

The brothers counter-sued for trespassing, saying Sabal Trail contractors went on their land without consent.

The brothers lost that case too.

Thursday, Sabal Trail was awarded $47,000 in legal fees for defending the trespassing accusation. The brothers said justice wasn't served.

It was a two and a half hour hearing over legal fees.

The judgment from Southwestern Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Rucker Smith, however, was immediate.

"I don't understand why a billion dollar company doing a two to three billion dollar project needs $47,000? From average, ordinary, tax paying citizens who are doing nothing more than defending their rights as they see it," said James Bell.

The Bell brothers said they were defending themselves for the future.

"I was trying to defend myself, my brother and I were trying to defend ourselves, so in my opinion we had no choice but to fight it," said James.

They said settlement offers with Sabal, there was even an attempt at a settlement during Thursday's proceedings, took away their right to sue the company in the future if something goes wrong with the natural gas pipeline, pumping one billion cubic feet daily of natural gas along their property at Highways 93 and 112, not far from the Dougherty County line.

"It is my contention they are going to use this brief, this judgment, to bully anybody and everybody who stands against them," said James.

We reached out to Sabal Trail and asked why they were pursuing the legal fees, they responded that "Sabal Trail does not comment on the details of a legal proceeding."

Judge Smith agreed with Sabal Trail's attorneys, saying that the state law was on Sabal Trail's side, and that the $47,000 in fees to defend themselves was reasonable.

"My legal fees were $5k," said James. "I ask every ordinary citizen out there, if a company can do this to me and my brother, my family, what do you think they can do to you?"

The Bell brothers say they do not know how they will pay the legal fees to Sabal Trail.

Their attorney, however, said he expects Sabal Trail to go after their 100-acres of family land in Mitchell County.


More land sold for the controversial Sabal Trail pipeline

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