"A federal court jury on Friday acquitted the big chemical products company W. R. Grace and three of its former executives on all charges that they had knowingly contaminated the small Montana mining town of Libby with asbestos, then conspired to cover up the deed.
At least 200 people have died of asbestos-related diseases and hundreds more have been sickened in Libby, population about 2,600. And there is no doubt that the Zonolite Mountain vermiculite mine, owned and operated by Grace from 1963 to 1990, was the source of the asbestos.
But the jury in Federal District Court in Missoula, deliberating for less than two days after a nearly three-month trial, unanimously concluded that the contamination was not criminal.
The verdict was a repudiation of the federal government’s case, which portrayed Grace as a greedy mine operator, aware of the dangers created by its mining operations and then callously, criminally covering up its crime."
Kirk Johnson reports for the New York Times May 8, 2009.