Continued Cross of Miller
Robert Bettacchi is charged with two counts of violating the Clean Air Act – Knowing Endangerment:
Robert Bettacchi . . . did knowingly release and caused to be released into the ambient air a hazardous air pollutant, namely, asbestos, and at the time knowingly placed another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury by selling real property known as the “Screening Plant” to the Parker family . . . and by leasing a property knowing as the “Export Plant” to the Burnetts and selling the property known as the “Export Plant” to the City of Libby . . . (emphasis added).
Mr. Frongillo’s cross examination focused on the Government’s knowledge of the harm caused by the Libby vermiculite, and specifically, Dr. Miller’s knowledge of harm. Mr. Frongillo used multiple exhibits, mostly emails and letters regarding EPA team conference calls, to pinpoint years on his demonstrative timeline. Each pinpoint demonstrated another year in which the Government, in its different capacities, knew of the dangers of the Libby vermiculite. The timeline showed that the Government and Dr. Miller had knowledge of the harm caused by Libby vermiculite as early as 1985, and yet, until approximately year 2000, failed to warn Libby residents.
Mr. Frongillo succeeded in questioning Dr. Miller’s responsibility by attempting to prove that Dr. Miller had a duty to warn the people of Libby, but failed to fulfill his duty. Dr. Miller countered Mr. Frongillo’s argument by explaining that his responsibility fell within the confines of health assessments, not with the clean-up or community involvement.
Mr. Frongillo additionally attempted to impeach Dr. Miller by showing him an exhibit of a community Q & A and press release of which Dr. Miller took part. The Q & A response from the EPA stated, “the EPA did not take immediate steps to relocate people because there was no immediate health risk from asbestos [at the Screening Plant and Export Plant] . . . (emphasis added).” In yesterday’s direct examination, Dr. Miller testified that exposure to asbestos and Libby vermiculite posed a clear danger and an imminent danger. Mr. Frongillo equated the word immediate with imminent as defined in the Clean Air Act charges, to show that if no immediate danger existed, then imminent danger could not have existed. See Motion in Limine for discussion on imminent. Dr. Miller attempted to rehabilitate himself by explaining that while asbestos may not necessarily be an immediate health concern it can still be imminent.
Government’s Exhibit 621, a letter dated April 5, 1995, will be an important factor in the jury’s decision. This exhibit, introduced by the Mr. Frongillo, explained that the State of Montana and the EPA inspected the Libby Mine in 1995 and found no apparent Clean Air Act violations. The letter stated that neither the State nor the EPA would plan to take action. Mr. Frongillo left a question for the jury, “Ten years have passed and now there is a criminal indictment for Clean Air Act violations. How could the Government indict for violations of the Clean Air Act in 2005, when in 1995 [the EPA] did not find any violations?” Mr. Frongillo continued by stating that his client, Mr. Bettacchi, had already sold the Screening Plant and leased the Export Plant before the indictment. The Screening Plant was sold on December 17, 1993. The Export Plant was leased to various people and entities from 1994 until 2000.
– Audrey Schultz (posted 2:30 p.m.)