Posts Tagged ‘Mike Crill’

Jury aquits W.R. Grace & Co. of criminal charges

10 May 2009 by under Events, Legal, News

Libby, Montana, residents were devastated Friday afternoon when a jury returned a judgment aquiting W.R. Grace & Co. of criminal charges regarding its mining facility in the town. The case began in 2005 when a federal grand jury handed down an unprecedented indictment, alleging a 30-year conspiracy to defraud the government and knowingly endanger the residents of Libby. The indictment alleged Grace company officials knew they were exposing Libby workers and residents of the nearby town to fibers, and that they knew the exposure posed a dangerous health risk to those workers and residents. Grace denied the claims, saying they were diligent in efforts to protect workers and to meet government regulations for managing the substance.

Asbestos exposure causes serious disease, including asbestosis, a severe scarring of the lungs that worsens with time and impairs the ability of its victims to breathe, and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and, more rarely, the stomach and heart.

According to the report in The Missoulian, statistics compiled by the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD), located in Libby, indicate that to date 227 community members have died from asbestos disease, and there are more than 1,800 active cases resulting from exposure to the deadly fiber. The newspaper notes that “the study also attributes scores of deaths to non-occupational asbestos exposures, and finds that 77 people who never worked at Grace’s mine in Libby have died of asbestos disease since 1998.”

David Uhlmann, who is former chief of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section, who was instrumental in developing much of the early indictment against Grace, said the Government’s case against Grace was severely limited by the court, which did not allow much of the evidence to be presented to the jury. This included some of the most incriminating internal memos, he said.

The Post quotes Uhlmann as saying, “The verdict is a fair reflection of the evidence that jurors were allowed to hear. But the question that hangs over this case is what would have happened if the government were allowed to present all of the evidence that it had amassed in this multi-year investigation.”

According to a report in The Washington Post, in a court filing the government acknowledged it “has committed discovery violations in this case,” which led to many rulings excluding its evidence and weakening its case against Grace.

The Missoulian reported the reaction of two Libby residents familiar to our readers – Gayla Benefield, who was perhaps the first to raise the outcry about the dangers of deadly asbestos in the town, said the company has “gotten away with murder.” And the paper quotes our friend , who worked in the asbestos mine and has lost family members to asbestos related disease and suffers himself from asbestos disease.

The Missoulian says Mike cried upon hearing the verdict. The paper quotes him: “What did they die for? What am I dying for?” Crill sobbed. “They are guilty of killing us.”

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 , Montana, 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 mesothelioma, 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.

Grace criminal trial begins with Libby victim outrage

19 Feb 2009 by under Events, Legal, News, Twitter

Jury selection is beginning today in Missoula, Montana, for the criminal case against W.R. Grace & Co. The company is charged with knowingly exposing workers at its Libby, Montana, based mine, and residents of the town of Libby, to hazardous asbestos. The asbestos is found in vermiculite, which was mined in Libby for many years. Hundreds of people in Libby have died as a result of asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, and hundreds more are still suffering.

Local media is covering the W.R. Grace trial extensively, and has created an EXCELLENT web site with tons of resources about the case, as well as about the town of Libby, asbestos and vermiculite, the victims, the company, cleanup efforts and more. There are videos available as well. Visit the web site here:

The trial is being held in U.S. District Court in Missoula. A federal grand jury charged W.R. Grace & Co. in February 2005, along with seven of the company’s executives and managers. In June 2008 a Supreme Court decision upheld the grand jury’s findings so a court date could be set.

I recently spoke with , and posted a poem on this site that he wrote in memory of his father-in-law, who worked in the Grace mines and died of asbestosis. Mike suffers from asbestosis as well, and he is an active and outspoken advocate on behalf of the town of Libby and its residents. He believes that despite an EPA cleanup, the town is still dangerous because of the lingering threat of asbestos exposure.

When I spoke to Mike in January, he was optimistic, hoping a new President and administration would bring a fresh look at Libby, and hopeful the criminal trial would bring justice to its people.

“I’m hoping 2009 will be the beginning of the end of all that’s been allowed to happen for so long, and I hope these people will be held accountable,” he said. “This is murder, to me, because they could have stopped it and they should have.”

Yesterday, Mike emailed me several times, upset by a ruling by U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy, who in an order last week said that there are “no crime victims identifiable” in the Grace case, essentially barring Libby residents who are sick from asbestos exposure and serving as victim witnesses to attend the trial.

According to a news story written by Tristan Scott and published by the Missoulian, “Molloy drew his legal conclusion from an oft-evoked federal rule of evidence that prohibits witnesses from observing trial proceedings until their own testimony is complete.” The judge’s decision is based on a witness-sequestration rule, but it is usually not applied to witnesses who are the victims of alleged crimes.

The ruling excludes 34 witnesses from Libby that prosecutors had intended to call from attending the trial in full. Judge Molloy’s order says witnesses in the Grace case are not protected under the , which guarantees victims of an alleged crime to the right to participate in and observe the criminal justice process.

Basically, the judge is saying that these witnesses do not qualify as “crime victims,” and therefore are not immune from the witness-sequestration rule.

Mike was livid.

“Can you believe this??? I…am not a victim???” he emailed me from Missioula, where he is picketing at the courthouse. “I can’t participate in something that belongs to me and all my loved ones who suffered and died waiting for this, their day of justice?”

Longtime Libby resident Crill captures tragedy through poetry

23 Jan 2009 by under News, People

I recently spoke with Mike Crill, a resident of , Montana for more than 40 years. Mike has been diagnosed with asbestosis as a result of years of asbestos exposure at the mine in Libby. He has watched many members of his family suffer from asbestosis and mesothelioma as a result of years of exposure in the workplace and from widespread asbestos contamination throughout the town.

These days, Mike is an outspoken activist who lobbies for more thorough cleanup of Libby and the surrounding countryside, or a quarantine of the town to protect future generations from exposure. I’ll have more about his mission in the next few weeks, but I wanted to introduce you to him through some of his writings.

Following is a poem that Mike created in memory of his father-in-law, Donald M. Kaeding, who was diagnosed with asbestosis in both lungs in 1999, and passed away on January 30, 2002.

Today I’m Told
By Mike Crill

Today I’m told I have asbestosis in both my lungs
and that I am being sent home to die because there is no cure and asbestosis
is my guarantee to death…

Today I am scared to what has become of me.
I no longer can run nor walk very far.
Life’s getting harder every day…

Today I’m saddened by those who love me as they try to hide
the truth and their pain, knowing I shall soon die and that
they will witness my every moment, until I die…

Today I feel so lost because my life depends on a tube that
pumps oxygen into my lungs to keep me alive. Knowing beyond
the end of that hose lies the end of my life…

Today I am mad because I can’t feed myself and someone has to
bathe me, dress me and change my soiled pants. It’s times like
these I wish I were dead…

Today I am in the hospital. I’ve become too much for my loved ones
to endure and I am crying inside because I know when I leave here
I’ll be in Heaven…

Today is the worst, no feelings in my hands and feet, both are
turning blue and non-stop morphine is all that’s left to ease
my pain…

Today I tried my hardest for my last breath, for my last
touch of a hand in mine, as the last words I heard and the last
words I spoke, “I love you…”

Today … I’m in Heaven. No pain for ever more. It’s really
beautiful here. And I shall await for you all to join me in
eternal life and love…God bless and Amen