Locke called as witness
The day started with Judge Molloy’s announcements prior to the jury being seated in the courtroom. Grace moved to limit the testimony of Robert Locke and made two motions to exclude exhibits. Giving the prosecution a chance to respond, Molloy said he would be willing to wait for the government’s brief over the lunch hour in lieu of oral arguments this morning. The prosecution reassured Molloy by noting that most of the contested content would surface later in the day after the judge had time to review both positions.
With the jury now present, government attorney Kris McLean called Robert Locke as a witness. Locke had been employed with Grace in various capacities since 1974. A Harvard educated man who studied industrial engineering, finance, and technology commercialization, Locke worked his way up through Grace through years of company commitment and amplified responsibility. He bitterly left Grace in 1999, and filed suit against the company that same year. The suit is still pending, and any further mention of it was strongly objected to by Grace attorneys.
While the government’s interest in Locke wasn’t overtly clear at first, as direct ticked on through the first hour Locke’s professional history started to illuminate his ability to share Grace’s internal operating procedures with the jury. Locke had worked in ten different positions throughout Grace, and though he stated his efforts to stay away from the construction division, he ended up in upper level management positions dealing directly with tremolite and vermiculite. Assured that he was the best person for the job, Locke reluctantly accepted the Director of Marketing for Building Products position in 1986, and continued on to ultimately head the construction division as the Global Vice President and Chief Technical Officer for all construction in 1992. It was in this position that he worked with Mr. Bettacchi to oversee the health, safety, and environmental issues of Grace at that time.
Mr. Locke then went on to explain the vermiculite and tremolite business to the jury. He detailed the different uses for the products as well as the way the raw materials were mined, used, transported and converted into usable products. He recounted how one of his responsibilities during his employment was to supervise the required OSHA step down in asbestos exposure. Locke was responsible for determining what data existed in the past regarding exposure levels, and what changes in operating conditions needed to be effectuated to comply with the lower exposure levels.
At that point Mr. McLean guided Mr. Locke through a summary to establish how he knew each Grace defendant and the approximate time period he worked with each person. Locke easily identified and spoke of his professional relationships with Mr. Eschenbach, Mr. Wolter, Mr. Walsh, Mr. McCaig, Mr. Bettacchi, and Mr. Favorito. Each defendant’s attorney stood to stipulate as to the identity of their client in order to save time and effort.
Locke became engaged in this case when a group of government agents came to his home in 2004 and interviewed him regarding the environmental investigation of Libby. While Locke said he was not surprised by the nature of the investigation in Libby, he was surprised by the magnitude of it. He decided to cooperate with the government’s investigation despite his fears that he would be implicated as a conspirator. He was aware that he was on the short list for criminal liability, but declined a letter of immunity against his attorney’s advice.
Instead, Locke provided the government with testimony and documents. Locke had several boxes full of files he had stored in his basement, and offered them to the prosecution. Foreshadowing what will no doubt be the subject of later testimony, Locke said he got possession of the documents by taking them from the office when he was about to leave Grace permanently. While Grace normally stores the files for themselves, Locke feared liability for his involvement with Grace and decided it would be best to keep the documents for himself.
– Kathryn Mazurek (10:55 a.m.)