SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
About Contact Subscribe Calendar Publish Print Donate

U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Libby, MT; Verdict of "Not Guilty" for Grace Corp. in Asbestos Case
by Justice Needed for Libby Workers & Residents!
Wednesday May 27th, 2009 11:43 AM
After several months of evidence presented by the prosecution against W.R. Grace corporation showing their knowledge of dangers faced by workers from exposure to vermiculite asbestos, Federal Judge Donald Malloy showed clear bias against the prosecution's witness, a former W.R. Grace employee by calling him a "liar". Expert witnesses for the prosecution were muzzled by Judge Molloy also. Some form of real justice still needed for Libby residents since U.S. courts cannot deliver..
Following the recent ruling of Missoula Federal Court's Judge Molloy of "not guilty" for the W.R. Grace corporation's role in knowingly giving their employees lung cancer from vermiculite asbestos exposure, residents of Libby, Montana and others feel that justice has not yet been served and in fact was derailed by overt bias on the part of Judge Donald Molloy..

This bias in favor of the defense (W.R. Grace corporation) showed itself in Molloy's support of defense's frequent attacks on the credibility of the prosecution's star witness, Robert Locke, defaming his character and making him out to be a liar. The claim from Grace was that Locke had personal vendetta against Grace since he was terminated from Grace for depression-related issues several years ago. However, Locke kept meticulous notes and was directly involved in supervising handling of the vermiculite tainted asbestos material during his time at Grace..

Judge Molloy also did not allow EPA's on site investigator Paul Peronard to present evidence that would have helped prosecution win the case. Of course, that is the point of having an expert witness testify! What good is an expert witness detailed knowledge of geology if that witness is muzzled by the judge??

Once again the U.S. government has shown it's inability to regulate corporations who engage in dangerous and deadly practices. The W.R. Grace corporation literally got away with murder, and yet they are free to enjoy the wealth robbed from the hills and labor of Libby for their retirement, while the Grace workers killed by vermiculite asbestos only get cold graves as their reward..

This time the government played the role of prosecution, yet the judge shows clear bias to the defense!

Justice for the people of Libby, Montana did not appear in any U.S. courtrooms yet, and is doubtful it ever will. In what form will justice appear for the people of Libby??

In order to discourage random acts of vigilantism against W.R. Grace executive officers (unsentenced murderers!) relaxing in their mansions, this author recommends a retrail, this time with a NON-BIASED Judge!!


UMT Grace case blog @;
http://blog.umt.edu/gracecase/

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Invalid reasons for exclusion of witnesses
Thursday May 28th, 2009 11:16 AM
There are some online transcripts of the court motions available online.


http://www.mtd.uscourts.gov/links.htm

go to ; W.R. Grace Information

then;

docket sheet view all documents

or possible direct link;
http://www.mtb.uscourts.gov/mtd/mtdcaselookup.asp

Of interest are items;

# 456 (Exclude Expert Witness Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum)

# 457 (Exclude Expert Witness Dr. Aubrey Miller)

# 483 (Exclude Expert Testimony of Paul Peronard)

There are several other motions for exclusions of either witnesses or evidence that overwhelmingly favor the defendants W.R. Grace corporation. The reasoning for the Judge supporting the exclusions of evidence are unclear and without valid cause. Though Paul Peronard may not have a degree in geology, his work as EPA's onsite investigator required him to have specific background information and experience working with vermiculite asbestos and other materials..

Other reasons given for his exclusion are that he may "opine" that "Asbestos can cause asbestosis and is a recognized human carcinogen, causing lung cancer and mesothelioma, a lethal neoplasm of the lining of the chest and abdominal cavities. Cancer of the larynx and esophageal lining have also been associated with exposure to asbestos."

That statement is not an "opine" or "opinion", it is known scientific facts that are available even to laypeople. An expert in trade and experience with specific materials can reference known scientific facts for support of their testimony. For someone who routinely worked around the material he is referencing, that qualifies Peronard as an expert with this specific subject matter..

Making claims of judicial bias towards a corporate defendant is nothing new, and the same pattern appears to repeat itself when corporations are put on public trial for environmental and human rights violations from knowingly exposing workers and residents to carcinogenic toxins. These false positive verdicts of "not guilty" fly into the face of reality and must be challenged on every level. Like going to a doctor, we demand a "second opinion" or second trial where expert witness testimony from at least the above mentioned three people are NOT EXCLUDED and this time available for the jury to hear and then see if they would find W.R. Grace not guilty, highly doubt that would be the outcome..

Until then, justice for the people of Libby is still waiting..

by & W.R. Grace background info
Friday May 29th, 2009 3:14 PM
Some mistakes in the above comment and article;

Both Paul Peronard and Dr. Aubrey Miller were allowed to testify during the recent '09 trial, though their testimony was attempted to be stricken from the record several times by Grace lawyers.

However, other expert witnesses for the defense were limited in their testimony. For example, in docket # 1103, the order from Judge Molloy to strike the testimony of Dr. Whitehouse is granted, though not the entire testimony is stricken. Judge Molloy strikes his prediction that Libby's CARD (Center for Asbestos Related Disease) will continue to see cases until 2030, claiming that he lacks epidemiological knowledge to make such a prediction. Since Dr. Whitehouse makes this claim from his position on the frontline of treatment, he is considered "unscientific" and has this statement stricken from the record. However, with some common sense and a logical mathematical equation, this statement could also be proven by science..

Then docket # 1089 grants and denies the motion to exclude witness testimony from Melvin Burrett, based upon objections in open court during Melvin's testimony. We do not know what he said that was objected to by the Grace lawyers, nor what objections were overruled..

Docket # 1062 also denies and grants defendant Bettacchi's motion to exclude evidence of demolition of buildings at screening plant and mine as reflected in court's rulings during Mr. Leroy Thoms's testimony, we do not know what was allowed as evidence and what was suppressed..

The 400 numbered dockets mentioned in the above comment are all from 2006, and this trial never went to court. All the dockets from the recent trial that just ended May 08/09 are numbered from around 800 and up..

What is known and not subject to guessing games and whims of pro-corporate activist judges like Donald Malloy is the peculiar history of W.R. Grace corporation as found in documented literature..

The book called "Libby, Montana: Asbestos and the Deadly Silence of an American Corporation" by Andrea Peacock (2003) from Johnson Publishing Co. in Boulder, CO is a great place to get some background info on how W.R. Grace Corporation came into Libby, MT and managed to suppress, obfuscate and derail evidence and investigations into asbestosis for so long before their bankruptcy in 1990..


http://www.johnsonbooks.com/


http://www.johnsonbooks.com/search.php?search=libby

We begin in 1928 when U.S.G.S. scientists found vermiculite deposits in Libby at least 100 million years old, with 100 foot wide by 1,000 foot long deposits. Ed Alley then heated layers of ore, which expanded and released trapped water as steam. He called the finished product "Zonolite" and discovered many uses, including insulation (30-1).

Zonolite was also the name of the corporation that then was taken over by W.R. Grace in 1963. Here we are introduced to Earl Lovick, an employee of Zonolite who was transferred to Grace after the takeover. Even after his retirement in 1983, Lovick stayed with Grace as a paid consultant. "Earl Lovick knew that Zonolite was laced with asbestos, that alley's miracle ore was killing miners and maybe other townspeople, though he did nothing to warn them." (35-6)

Lovick knew the form of asbestos in zonolite's mine was called tremolite, a straighter fiber than the commercial forms of asbestos usually available to the public. He knew where in the plant the asbestos dust was leaking, and that over 1/3 of the miners were developing lung problems. He felt that employees were aware of the risks without being told, and that with respirator masks were safe. (35-6)

Bob Wilkins, a union representative, was not aware of the risks from tremolite asbestos until 1979, when he was told by a federal health inspector (38).

The six story high dry mill used screens and shakers to separate the vermiculite from the surrounding rock matrix, and as a result was extremely dusty. The respirator masks given to employees during their time at the dry mill were either clogged or did not seal properly (39).

The background on J. Peter Grace reveals some connections and complicity with the Nazis during WW2, and including Nazi chemical conglomerate I.G. Farben's Dr. Otto Ambrose as management staff at Grace following WW2 and "Operation Paper Clip" when former Nazi scientists were transferred into positions in the U.S. (58-9)

This became public knowledge when Ronald Reagan appointed Peter Grace to head up the Grace commission, an agency directed to downsize regulatory agencies in the government, including NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), timed when they were prepared to investigate Grace after the Scotts Co. asbestosis cases were linked to Grace..
by cont'n of Nazi chemical experiments in Libby
Sunday May 31st, 2009 3:15 PM
Historical references on W.R. Grace employing former Nazi war criminal Otto Ambrose at W. R. Grace corporation;

"[Material on J. Peter Grace, Chair of the Board, W.R. Grace Co.:" "Grace is a leader of the US Council of the International Chamber of Commerce." He is also president of the 1,000 member US branch of the highly secret Catholic society, the Knights of Malta, a group liberally sprinkled with CIA and CFR people:" William Donovan, World War II head of OSS; William Casey, Reagan's CIA Director; Alexander Haig; William Simon and William F. Buckley." It also includes Jeremiah Denton, a most dedicated anti-union Senator, and a supporter of AIFLD funding" (H&M: 741-742." Source:" San Jose Mercury, Janaury 10, 1980: 10-E).

["Grace's company has shifted from Latin American trade into chemicals." By 1980, the biggest stockholder was the Frick Group of West Germany, which grew fat financing the Nazis and taking over Jewish-owned enterprises" (Source:" San Jose Mercury, Janaury 10, 1980: 10-E)." "A top executive in his German subsidiary is Otto Ambrose." J. Peter Grace wrote of his 'deep admiration' for Ambrose in a letter recommending him for a visa for this country." Ambrose had an entry problem based on his war-time position in I.G. Farben at Auschwitz death camp and ran all poison gas operations" (H&M: 742." Source:" San Jose Mercury, Janaury 10, 1980: 10-E)." The usually talkative Grace has evaded reporters' questions on the matter.

[After 19 years on the AIFLD board, Grace resigned to become President Reagan's chief cost cutter, to slash even bigger holes in the safety net of social legislation" (H&M: 742).]

http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/42a/126.html

Once in the U.S. working at W.R. Grace corporation, former Nazi employ of I.G. Farben, Otto Ambrose was able to continue experimentation on the community of Libby, Montana. Instead of I.G. Farben's Zylon-B gas, the chemical was now instead a sharp mineral called vermiculite tremolite asbestos. That is how our beloved U.S. government collaborates with industrialist war criminals from both "sides" at the expense of the health and welfare of their own people..

Peter Grace was also enabled by Ronald Reagan to cut the budgets of the regulatory agencies that were supposed to protect the health of Libby workers and residents. This resulted in a delay of the NIOSH investigation until 1987, only three years prior to W.R. Grace closing down the Libby plant..

"A 1980 memo discussed company options on a proposal from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), to study tremolite at the Libby operation. Benefield says the company favored a pre-emptive epidemiological study, delay tactics and political pressure to sidetrack the federal agency and suppress health data to protect economic interests.

Routine air quality inspections of the mine by the state of Montana were often done when it was either raining or the mill wasn't operating.

In 1982, the company had advised the Libby school district to encapsulate the high school track built from mine tailings, saying the material was contaminated with tremolite asbestos. It was eventually paved over with asphalt.

It was also in 1982 that President Ronald Reagan appointed J. Peter Grace, then CEO of W. R. Grace, to what became known as the Grace Commission, a citizen body responsible for recommending to Congress deep cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency's budget and curtailment of their investigations. Although she can't prove it, Benefield believes that when the EPA came to town in 1980 to investigate the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite, it was because of the Grace Commission's report that the study was dropped two years later. According to Thomas Dixon, the EPA researcher on the study at the time, a budget cut is what forced the agency to focus on higher priority concerns such as asbestos in schools and dioxins.

Nevertheless, by then Benefield had become a determined whistleblower.

"I started to carry the message to our elected officials, right up to the governor's office," Benefield says. Libby is former Montana Governor Marc Racicot's hometown. So she figured somebody would do something about her findings and the overwhelming statistics, but she got no response. No one took action. While Racicot never visited his hometown to offer assistance and denied knowing anything about the problem, other evidence shows that the Montana State Board of Health was first aware of possible health impacts as far back as 1956."

http://www.times.org/archives/2001/libby.htm

What happens when corporate executives like Peter Grace of W.R. Grace are selected by politicians like Ronald Reagan to head up Grace Commissions that decide what forms of pollution and toxic exposures are worthwhile for investigation (or not)? This is like the fox guarding the henhouse, and the results are never pleasant for the people effected;


"So when these two talk about the link between the EPA's failure to follow up on its own reports detailing the hazards of Libby's ore, and the Regan Administration's "Private Sector Survey on Cost Control," which was headed by J. Peter Grace, CEO of W.R. Grace & Co., and in an interview with William Ruckelshaus, who served as the EPA's first administrator in 1970, and again during the Reagan years, the authors quote Ruckelshaus as saying " If Grace's company owned that mine in Libby or had any other major involvement with asbestos, (Peter Grace) shouldn't have been reviewing actions dealing with the regulation of the asbestos industry" ­ when Schneider and McCumber discuss these issues, I listen.

And when the two write about W.R. Grace's cynical strategy to reassign employees whose X-rays showed significant signs of disease to less dirty jobs so as to minimize their exposure to asbestos dust in order to keep them on the job until they retired, and preclude the high cost of total liability; or when they expose the company touting its "Libby Medical Program" for anyone in the town diagnosed with asbestosis, even as the program repeatedly denies coverage to applicants and refuses to pay for some of their medications and oxygen, when Schneider and McCumber write about these things and many other indecencies, I believe them.

If An Air That Kills just served the purpose of exposing W.R. Grace's criminal and barbaric treatment of the Libby mine workers and their families, the book would have covered its purchase cost going away. It would be an important title. As it is, this significant work serves as an example of how not only hundreds of companies in this country view doing business, but how corporate entities around the world callously make a buck. An Air That Kills is required reading for anyone who cares."

http://www.counterpunch.org/holt02202004.html

The people's trial of W.R. Grace is not over by a long shot!!