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Prosecution drops its case against Walsh

by University of MontanaChris D’Angelo
| April 30, 2009 12:00 AM

The government dismissed all charges against Robert C. Walsh Monday afternoon in the W.R. Grace & Co. federal trial in Missoula.

Walsh is a former vice president of Grace and one of seven company executives originally indicted on federal charges in 2005.

“With respect to Mr. Walsh,” McLean told Molloy in front of a jam-packed courtroom, “The government can not prove its case without a reasonable doubt.”

With one defendant out of the picture, the defense continued its push to dismiss all charges against the remaining defendants, including W.R. Grace itself, and managers or executives William McCaig, Henry Eschenbach, Jack Wolter and Robert Bettacchi.

Speaking to the remaining defendants’ attorneys seated to his left, Molloy asked who wanted to go first in presenting their arguments for dismissal.

“I think we have enough time for everyone to have about 10 minutes,” he said.

Attorney Elizabeth Gray, representing William McCaig, approached the bench first. McCaig served several managerial positions at W. R. Grace between the early 1970s and mid-1990s before his retirement in 1995.

“The government’s case is even shorter on Mr. McCaig,” said Gray, refering to the dismissal of charges against Walsh. “There’s not one document in evidence that’s got Mr. McCaig’s name on it that postdates 1988 (the year McCaig left Libby and that position with W.R. Grace) … I suggest that he should leave (this courtroom) today.”

Arguments for the dismissal of Grace’s former director of health, safety and toxicology, Henry Eschenbach, came next from attorney David Krakoff.

Krakoff began by saying, “We’ve seen in full bloom this morning a very sad story … an any-cost approach” by the prosecution.

Krakoff contended that there is no evidence, and never has been, that his client entered into an agreement to harm the people of Libby.

“Mr. Eschenbach was doing his job. No more. No less.” Krakoff stressed. “This case has gone on far too long … we ask the court to enter an acquittal of Mr. Eschenbach at this time and end this case today.”

Next came arguments from Carolyn Kubota representing Jack Wolter, the former vice president of Grace’s construction products division.

Despite the government’s argument that Wolter knew of “large piles of vermiculite strewn around” Mel and Lerah Parker’s property, Kubota said there has been no evidence to prove such a claim.

“(There is) absolutely no mention of Jack Wolter knowing about vermiculite on the property … zero evidence is not enough,” she said.

Kubota finished by saying that if Wolter believed that Libby was covered with a deadly carpet of asbestos, the first thing he would have done would be leave immediately.

To find that Wolter intended to endanger the people of Libby, the government would also have to prove that he was willing to do the same to his own family, Kubota said. “That is preposterous.”

Finally, Molloy listened to arguments from attorney David Hird, representing Robert Bettacchi, Grace’s former senior vice president.

Hird argued that the only evidence in the record to connect Bettacchi to either property in question was that he signed the deeds for both.

“As far as Mr. Bettacchi knew, the items on the punch list were performed,” Hird said. “He was informed that the cleanup work was done … (there’s) no evidence that he acknowledged a situation that would have endangered another person.

On the Net: Follow the University of Montana's coverage of the Grace trial at: http://blog.umt.edu/gracecase/