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Arkema trial: Prosecutor drops assault charges

HOUSTON – The Arkema trail is on hold currently due to COVID-19 but resumes on September 21, already prosecutors have submitted for and State Judge Belinda Hill accepted on Monday to drop assault charges in the release of toxic fumes affecting to two deputies.

The prosecution admitted that charges against three company executive may have been based on a lie in relation to reckless behavior charges.

“Prosecutors always have a duty to seek justice; in this case, a prosecutor felt that there was enough evidence for a criminal charge, but that he could not prove that charge beyond a reasonable doubt at this time, so he requested it be dismissed,” Dave Schiller, Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Richard Rowe and Leslie Comardelle (the former plant manager) are still charged with reckless emission of air contaminants. Possible consequences for those charges could be $1 million dollar fine for Arkema and five years for the decision makers.

The defense argues that prosecutors are still withholding exculpatory evidence, illegally.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said in 2018 that although Arkema crews had done their utmost to prevent a loss of power they had concluded that flooding was not “a credible risk.”

The plant however is within a flood plain and their insurance company had expressed in 2016 that flooding was such a risk.

As flood waters receded, Crosby residents were beginning to surface from Hurricane Harvey in late August of 2017, US 90 was shut down and over 200 residents were evacuated from their homes because it was learned that there could soon be an explosion at Arkema Chemical Plant. Trailers containing chemicals that had lost their refrigeration had reached critical temperatures and were separated from others to a nearby warehouse. When the explosion happened, fumes were emitted that hospitalized more than twenty people including first responders.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg took the unusual step to bring criminal charges against certain decision makers for Arkema. Alleging that Arkema acted recklessly through a ‘gross deviation’ from objective standards of conduct within the chemical manufacturing community.”

Mostly that Arkema did not move potentially explosive chemicals prior to Hurricane Harvey making landfall before flooding.

Criminally charged are then CEO Richard Rowe and Plant Manager Leslie Comardelle and former Logistic Vice President Michael Keough is charged with assaulting two law enforcement deputies in the release of fumes.

Arkema defendants hired Rusty Hardin and Associates and Drumheller, Hollingswort and Monthly. Calling the freakish 60 inches of rain “an act of God,” they began their defense on a note of unavoidable circumstance. And they countercharged saying the District Attorney was waging political prosecution.