Cross Examination of Mel Parker Concludes
The cross-examination of Mel Parker by defense attorney Frongillo continued this morning. Mr. Frongillo focused on whether Mr. Parker had knowledge that the property he purchased from Grace was contaminated with asbestos prior to November 1999. Mr. Frongillo attempted to admit two newspaper articles into evidence (defense proposed exhibits 5017 and 5020). The first newspaper article was from The Daily Inter Lake and was published May 3rd, 1990 with the headline “Grace Mine Closing; 90 to Lose Jobs.” The second article was from The Western News. The prosecution objected to both articles on grounds of foundation and both objections were sustained by Judge Molloy. Thus, neither of the articles was admitted into evidence.
Mr. Frongillo next focused on an agreement between the Parkers and EPA entitled “Reimbursement Agreement” (defense exhibit 5622). This contractual agreement provided that the Parkers certified the property was purchased with no knowledge of asbestos contamination and they would be paid $546,420.91 by EPA. The agreement was admitted into evidence over a relevance objection by the prosecution. Mr. Frongillo elicited from Mr. Parker that he was paid an additional $840,000 by EPA and that in total EPA paid the Parkers approximately $1.5 million. Mr. Frongillo suggested that to obtain these payments EPA required the Parkers have no knowledge their property was contaminated at the time of purchase. Mr. Frongillo’s line of questioning seemed to be an effort to show the Parkers had a financial interest in testifying that they had no knowledge their property was contaminated.
Also admitted into evidence (defense exhibit 5628) was a letter to the EPA that stated there were concerns that evidence existed contradicting Mr. Parker’s sworn affidavit to EPA that he had no knowledge of the presence of asbestos prior to 1999. Specifically, this letter was referring to another letter written anonymously, by Mr. Crill, to Mr. Parker stating the property was contaminated with asbestos. Mr. Parker was adamant he had never received such a letter and stated Mr. Frongillo was omitting the fact he was not home at the time the letter had been delivered. According to Mr. Parker the letter had been taped on or left at his door and when he returned it was not there. Mr. Frongillo wanted to show Mr. Parker had received the letter in order to contradict Mr. Parker’s sworn affidavit to EPA stating he had no knowledge that the property he purchased was contaminated with asbestos. A letter written by Mr. Parker’s attorney to EPA dated February 16, 2001 was admitted as defense exhibit 5614. The letter stated that affidavits are enclosed showing the Parkers were innocent purchasers with no knowledge of the contamination.
Cross-examination of Mr. Parker was continued by defense attorney Mr. Lancaster. Mr. Lancaster’s line of questioning focused on what Grace had offered to compensate the Parkers for their contaminated property. Specifically, Grace offered to pay the Parkers $950,000, clean the property, and allow them to retain title to property.
The third defense attorney to cross-examine Mr. Parker was Ms. Kubota. Ms. Kubota’s line of questioning focused on the August 2000 civil suit the Parkers initiated over their contaminated property. Her questioning elicited that the Parkers sued a wide range of persons including Grace’s real estate agent and Kootenai Development Company (KDC).
The prosecution’s re-direct of Mr. Parker was conducted by Mr. McLean. First, Mr. McLean covered the 2002 civil suit filed by the Parkers. He elicited from Mr. Parker that the decision to sue KDC was made by his lawyers and it was done because at the time Grace did not have operations in Libby and KDC was a subsidiary of Grace. Next Mr. McLean focused on the compensation received by the Parkers. Mr. Parker stated that money was not a consideration, but rather he was concerned about his exposure to asbestos and long-term health. Mr. McLean then turned to the anonymous letter discussed during Mr. Frongillo’s cross. Mr. Parker reiterated he had not received the letter at the time it was delivered because he was not home and it was not on his door when he returned. Mr. Parker subsequently learned about the letter in 2000.
Mr. McLean’s questioning attempted to strengthen Mr. Parker’s credibility by pointing out that he has consistently stated he had no knowledge of asbestos contamination at the time the property was purchased. The re-direct next focused on the compensation the Parkers received from EPA. Mr. Parker testified that compensation was for the loss of his personal and real property, but did not cover the loss of his business. As he stated, the EPA was here to clean up not reimburse. Mr. Parker testified he was no longer able to continue his business. As questioning in this area continued Judge Molloy warned it was touching on irrelevance because it was focusing on civil damages. Shortly thereafter a relevance objection from the defense was sustained.
The last area Mr. McLean’s re-direct focused on was what Grace told the Parkers about the property. Mr. Parker testified that during meetings with Mr. Stringer he was never told that disturbing vermiculite piles on the property could pose a health hazard or that he should wear a respirator when driving his tractor near the mine site. A letter from Mr. Wolter to Mr. Parker inviting offers to purchase the property was examined by Mr. Parker (government exhibit 609). Mr. Parker then testified that the letter did not contain the word asbestos anywhere.
After conclusion of re-direct, Mrs. Parker was called to the stand by the prosecution. Questioning lasted for a few minutes before a defense objection that it was not occurring in question and answer format. Judge Molloy agreed and then called a 15 minute break.
-Robert Lishman (12:20pm)