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Hazardous Wait

What those grand jurors would say is this: After all their work, they wanted to indict eight individuals--five from Rockwell, three from DOE--for environmental crimes at Rocky Flats. But then-U.S. Attorney Mike Norton refused the indictment, and instead, working on behalf of the DOJ, arranged a deal that required Rockwell to plead guilty to ten crimes but charged no individuals, indemnified the company against future legal actions stemming from the investigation, and fined it $18.5 million--a record fine, but no more than Rockwell had earned in bonuses for running the plant. Outraged, the grand jurors wrote a report on their deliberations, as the Constitution allows them to, but a federal judge ordered the report sealed. Only after that did the leaks start and the outline of the story emerge ("Justice Denied," September 30, 1992). But the details have yet to be filled in.

"The grand jurors remain determined to see this case to conclusion," says their attorney, Jonathan Turley. "They understand Judge Matsch has a considerable docket, and they are prepared to press the case as long as it takes."

Which could be quite a while, judging from the pace of the current case. The DOJ attorney opened for both the government and Stone, talking about how Rockwell lied when asked whether the pondcrete was leaching into the environment or whether waste sprayed on fields around Rocky Flats was flowing into Woman Creek toward the towns of Westminster and Broomfield. As a result of Rockwell's lies, its "betrayal" of trust and responsibility, the government was left holding a $150 million bag to clean up the mess.

Then came Rockwell's turn, presented before a large, full-color photo of Rocky Flats and its environs in 1989. The plant is surrounded by green, green fields, and to the west, the mountains shine clear and snow-capped. There is no east, which would show the suburbs just downstream and downwind of the nuclear-weapons plant. There are no people who might drink contaminated water or breathe contaminated air. Instead the picture starts with the road, Central Avenue, that plant employees--from DOE and Rockwell alike--drove along every day, in full view of the piles of crumbling pondcrete. And not only was everything that Rockwell did in full view of the government, but it was done with the DOE's full knowledge. "This is not a case about fraud," Rockwell's attorney said. "It's a case about whether the Department of Energy will accept its role for problems at Rocky Flats instead of trying to act like it had nothing to do with it."

It's a case of feds versus feds, with the people--Jim Stone included--caught in the middle. The Cold War is over, but the truth is still held hostage.

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