Michigan Trio Face Asbestos Removal Charges in Federal Court

The last man of three indicted on felony charges by a grand jury over allegations they improperly handled asbestos during a Michigan charter school renovation was arraigned in federal district court this week.

Gerald A. Essex was arraigned on Sept. 16 before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Charles E. Binder on four counts of illegally distributing and handling asbestos, according to MLive, a regional Michigan news site. Essex entered a “not guilty” plea to the charges, which are punishable by a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Essex and co-defendant Roy C. Bradley Sr. – arraigned earlier on the same charges – were converting a former church into the Bay City Academy from Aug. 18, 2010, through Sept. 2, 2011, according to MLive. Federal prosecutors allege in their indictment that Essex and Bradley “knowingly failed to remove and cause the removal of all regulated asbestos-containing material from that facility in accordance with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.”

Rodolfo Rodriguez, the third co-defendant, is a carpenter who worked on the renovation. Federal prosecutors allege that he knowingly made false statements about the amount of asbestos removed from the worksite as well as misleading statements about who carried out the removal during his grand jury testimony in January.

Rodriguez was named as a codefendant on single counts of tampering with witnesses, victims or informants, a 20-year felony, and making false declarations to a grand jury, a five-year felony, according to MLive.

Prosecutors and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which investigated the case, say it stands as a warning to any contractor who is considering cutting costs related to asbestos removal.

Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, a rare and incurable cancer. Asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer). There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, according to the National Cancer Institute.

If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Sokolove Law today for a free case consultation and to learn more about an asbestos lawsuit.