Posts Tagged ‘Judge Don Molloy’

Update as Grace trial continues

5 Mar 2009 by under Events, Legal, News

The criminal trial against W.R. Grace & Co. is continuing this week at the Russell Smith federal courthouse in Missoula, . The company, along with former company officials, are charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and knwoing endangerment of the Clean Air Act. The government says Grace knew its vermiculite mine in Libby, , produced dangerous asbestos that put the health of its workers and the nearby townspeople at risk.

Hundreds have died in Libby as a result of exposure to asbestos, suffering a number of serious asbestos related diseases including asbestosis, a serious scarring of the lungs, and , a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and/or the abdomen. In 1999 an investigation revealed widespread asbestos contamination in Libby, and the Environmental Protection Agency began an effort to clean up the town, which continues today.

The story is receiving coverage from a number of media sources. The New Yorker called this the “most significant environmental criminal trial in American history.”

Early on, Judge Donald Molloy sparked anger in Libby residents when he ruled that victim witnesses would not be allowed to sit in on the trial. Regular myMeso reader and contributor Mike Crill, a longtime resident of Libby who has lost several family members to asbestos disease and suffers from asbestosis himself, was quoted in the Montana Kaimin when he and other Libby residents staged protests outside the courthouse.

The Kaimin quotes Crill as saying, “So much for freedom of speech, huh? Especially when you’re the victims and you’re being told that you’re not the victims.”

There is a great blog site by writer Tristan Scott, who also is doing a comprehensive series on the trial for The Missoulian, that is detailing the goings on at the Grace criminal trial. The blog, Cops and Courts, which bills itself as a “criminal justice blog” even has transcripts from court proceedings.

The Missoulian also has a special site set up with lots of archival information about W.R. Grace and Libby, Montana, as well as facts about asbestos, vermiculite mining and more. The site includes videos and slideshows as well.

Photo courtesy of Cops and Courts blog.


WR Grace trial continues in Montana

25 Feb 2009 by under Events, Legal, News

The criminal trial against W.R. Grace & Company began Monday in Missoula, Montana, and is continuing this week. The company is charged with knowingly exposing workers at its Libby, Montana, vermiculite mine, and residents of the nearby town of Libby to asbestos. The asbestos is found in vermiculite. Exposure to asbestos causes diseases including , a scarring of the lungs, and , a deadly cancer.

Hundreds of people in Libby have died as a result of asbestos exposure, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established the town as a Superfund site, undertaking a number of cleanup efforts.

The trial is taking place in U.S. District Court in Missoula before a federal grand jury.

According to The Missoulian, which is offering daily coverage of the trial as well as a web site dedicated to the history of W.R. Grace and Libby, federal prosecutors called their first witnesses yesterday. The news source says U.S. District Judge Don Molloy has ruled that testimony about asbestos releases must be limited to incidents after 1990, when the relevant criminal provision of the Clean Air Act was established, but the same year the Libby operation shut down.

However, the Missoulian says, prosecutors are working to show that even after the mine’s closure, “normal human activity” in the town stirred up asbestos-laden vermiculite that now permeated the town.

On Tuesday there was some dispute about allowing Paul Peronard to testify as a government expert witness against Grace. Peronard was the EPA’s on-site coordinator in 1999, when the asbestos contamination situation in Libby broke into the national news. He coordinated the asbestos remediation in Libby.

However, the Missioulian says, defense objected to qualifying Peronard as an expert witness, saying he didn’t have much experience with asbestos prior to his work in Libby.

Today the judge said he will allow Peronard to testify, but is limiting his testimony and expert opinions to his role in coordinating the Libby cleanup, barring him as an “expert scientist in risk assessment, toxicology or mineralogy,” the Missoulian says.

Federal prosecutors had hoped to use Peronard as a key witness.

Grace and five former company officials are charged with federal conspiracy involving Clean Air Act violations and obstrcution of justice, related to whether or not they knew they were endangering their workers and the community of Libby by mining asbesos-contaning vermiculite, and whether they were violating federal law.