Explo Systems Inc. owners ask state judge to toss charges

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The owners of a company accused of leaving 7,800 tons of improperly stored artillery propellant at Camp Minden have asked a state judge to throw out the charges against them.

David Fincher, 65, of Burns, Tennessee, and David Smith, 57, of Winchester, Kentucky, have pleaded not guilty to 10 charges including unlawful storage of explosives and reckless use of explosives.

The charges should be thrown out because Louisiana law does not classify the M6 artillery propellant as an explosive, Smith’s attorney, Lyn Lawrence Jr. of Bossier City, said Monday.

Army experts say the older it gets, the more unstable and likely to explode spontaneously the propellant becomes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Lawrence said he and Fincher’s attorney filed a motion in August asking Judge Mike Craig to quash the bill of information against their clients. A hearing on that and other motions had been scheduled Monday but has been postponed until Sept. 28.

It’s likely to be a drawn-out affair because of the expert testimony needed by both sides, Lawrence said in a phone interview Monday from Philadelphia.

A separate hearing scheduled Aug. 3 for Explo Systems operations manager William Terry Wright, of Bossier City, has been postponed to Oct. 26. It will also be a hearing on motions, defense attorney Donald Hathaway said last week.

Smith and Fincher owned Explo Systems Inc., which had an Army contract to dismantle artillery rounds and sell the components. Most of the M6 was to be sold for coal mine blasting, but reduced demand left the company with a huge backlog.

After a 2012 explosion in one of Explo’s leased bunkers shattered windows 4 miles away in Minden and created a 7,000-foot mushroom cloud, Louisiana State Police investigated. They found the 160-tons of clean-burning igniter and the M6, much of it in bags in the open.

The chemicals were stored in magazines before Explo Systems, which leased space from the National Guard’s industrial site at Camp Minden, went bankrupt in August 2013 and abandoned the site.

Three other Explo Systems executives have pleaded guilty; the Minden Press-Herald has reported that prosecutors expect a fourth to testify, without being charged, against the three whose cases are still in court.

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