Trial to begin in Michigan asbestos case

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U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, in Detroit, said that illegal handling of asbestos harms quality of life. Courtesy photo.

A jury trial is scheduled to begin April 29 on asbestos-related criminal charges stemming from the conversion of a former Bay City. Mich., church into a charter school.

Roy Bradley Sr. and Gerald Essex are accused of violating the Clean Air Act by failing to properly handle, remove and dispose of material containing asbestos on the Bay City Academy project. The charter school has more than 500 students from kindergarten through 9th grade at the former church and two other buildings.

Bradley was in charge of the project and Essex was the foreman supervising demolition and renovation activity at the site between August 2010 and September 2011, according to court documents.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

Essex’s defense lawyer, James Piazza of Saginaw, said, My client states his innocence and we’re going to try to show that at trial. Bradley’s lawyer, Andrew Concannon of Saginaw, said, Given the status as a pending criminal matter, I cannot comment.

A former employee of the company, Rodolfo Rodriguez, has pleaded guilty to perjury for lying under oath to the grand jury investigating the case. His sentencing is scheduled for June 15.

Medical research has connected asbestos to serious health risks including lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and nonmalignant lung disorders.

After the defendants were indicted last summer, Randall Ashe of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division said in a statement, There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.

In January, U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington rejected a bid by the defendants to have the indictment dismissed.

The trial will take place in federal court in Bay City. If convicted, Essex and Bradley face up to five years in prison.

Under federal sentencing guidelines and based on his prior convictions, Rodriguez faces 15 to 21 months in prison for perjury, according to his plea bargain agreement.

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