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Grand Jury’s Accusations in A-Plant Case Released

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From Associated Press

A judge on Tuesday released an edited version of a sealed special grand jury report that accused the government and a contractor of covering up environmental law violations at the Rocky Flats weapons plant.

The report was shelved last March by federal prosecutors, who instead reached an $18.5-million plea bargain with former Rocky Flats operator Rockwell International Corp. But angry grand jurors leaked portions of their report to the news media.

On Tuesday, Denver U.S. District Judge Sherman Finesilver released large parts of the report as well as government attorneys’ point-by-point responses to the allegations made by the 22-person panel.

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The judge omitted the names of eight people the grand jury wanted to indict but who never were charged. At the same time, Finesilver said he didn’t cut everything the government wanted him to.

The 124-page grand jury report alleges, among other things, that:

--The Department of Energy and Rockwell employees engaged in “an ongoing criminal enterprise” at Rocky Flats by repeatedly violating environmental laws.

--The plant has been operated during the last 40 years by those “who have placed themselves above the law and who have hidden their illegal conduct behind the cloak of ‘national security.’ ”

--Plant operators contaminated the drinking water of nearby communities, polluted ground water, endangered workers’ health and illegally stored hazardous and radioactive wastes on-site.

The government replied that Rockwell’s criminal conduct was addressed in its plea-bargain agreement, which noted a “prevailing DOE ‘culture’ allowed Rocky Flats’ crimes to occur.”

Government attorneys also argued that federal law precludes enforcement of the Clean Water Act against a federal facility regulated under the Atomic Energy Act.

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They also said that some contamination stopped once the Environmental Protection Agency became aware of it and that other alleged contamination didn’t exceed federal standards or involved materials that aren’t classified as hazardous waste.

Finesilver convened the grand jury in August, 1989. It interviewed more than 600 people and reviewed 3 1/2 million pages of documents.

Colorado U.S. Atty. Mike Norton rejected the grand jury report last March, saying there was not enough evidence to support bringing charges.

Two days later, Norton announced he had reached a plea-bargain agreement with Rockwell, which operated Rocky Flats for DOE for more than a decade ending in 1989. Rockwell agreed to plead guilty to 10 felony and misdemeanor environmental crimes and to pay an $18.5-million fine.

Months later, some of the grand jurors began telling reporters about their futile efforts to bring indictments against three DOE officials, five Rockwell employees and EG&G; Inc., the current plant operator.

“We didn’t want to let it just slide, but they (prosecutors) didn’t give us much choice,” a juror said at the time.

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