Hearings on defense motions for three former management officials of Explo Systems, Inc., the company responsible for the 15 million-plus pounds of M6 propellant which remains at Camp Minden, have been scheduled for April 6 in 26th Judicial District Court.
Attorneys for the remaining three former Explo officials who still face a variety of charges stemming from the alleged illegal storage were informed last week of the scheduled hearing date before a pair of district court judges. Motions filed by the defendants include a request for a bill of particulars, to quash portions of evidence and a request for a change of venue.
Scheduled for the hearing are Explo co-owners David Fincher of Burns, Tennessee and David Smith of Winchester, Kentucky. and operations manager William Terry Wright of Bossier City. The three are charged with unlawful storage of explosives, reckless storage of explosives, failure to obtain magazine license, failure to properly mark explosives and failure to keep accurate inventory.
In addition to the five charges, an additional charge of conspiracy to commit is attached to each, a spokesperson for the Webster Parish District Attorney’s office says.
District Attorney Schuyler Marvin says there’s a possibility the April 6 hearing could be postponed for nearly two months due to a procedural matter.
“The two owners have their case assigned to Judge Mike Craig and Wright’s is assigned to Judge Mike Nerren. One of the lawyers has asked for all to go before the same judge even though they wouldn’t agree to that the last time,” Marvin said. “He said he’s rethought the position.”
Marvin says the problem with consolidating the cases rests on one defendant who was not present at a previous hearing.
“We’re half way through a motion to suppress and one defendant was not present at the hearing,” Marvin explained. “In a criminal case, a defendant has to be present at all stages. That could mean the court date may change to June 1. That’s farther away than I want it, but we have to see what the court says.”
Two other issues which remain to be settled are where a trial will be held and who will hear the evidence once a trial begins, Marvin says.
“The most important motion the defense will file is for a change of venue,” he said. “It’s (the M6) a big deal and is in the newspaper almost daily and the cleanup timetable is still at issue. They’re using all that to say there’s no way to get a fair trial in Webster Parish.”
Marvin says the co-owners want a bench trial with Judge Craig presiding while Wright’s lawyer has requested a jury trial. If the cases are going to be joined before a single judge, a choice must be made between bench and jury trial, he says.
“We’ll get all the lawyers together to determine whether or not we try before a judge or jury. It’s a procedural thing, but we need to get this off high center,” Marvin said. “If they’re talking about trying them together, that’s what they need to determine. (Defendants) have to make the trial call.”
Marvin says he understands the concerns of defense attorneys, but he believes it is time for the case to come to trial without continued delays.
“This thing seems to have a life of its own,” he said.
Four other former Explo Systems employees have seen their cases completed. The most recent is Cliff Morrison, who was the final employee to be arrested.
“Our intention is to not proceed (with prosecution) with him. He will be used as a witness against the top three officials,” a spokesperson for the district attorney said.
Todd Dietrich: entered a guilty plea Aug. 23, 2013, to reckless handling of explosives, a misdemeanor. Fined $1,000 plus court costs, must pay restitution of $1,000 to the Louisiana State Police, must serve two years active probation.
Lionel Koons: entered a guilty plea Aug. 23, 2013, to careless handling of explosives, $1,000 fine plus $1,000 restitution to LSP, two years active probation.
Michael Kile: guilty plea to careless use of explosives, $1,000 fine plus $1,000 to offset the cost of prosecution, placed on supervised probation but will
consider unsupervised probation after eight months.
The court also ordered that Dietrich, Koons and Kile testify truthfully against the other codefendants and prohibited any of the three from being employed by any company which has anything to do with explosives.