Fillers Gets 4-Year Prison Sentence In SCT Asbestos Case: Mathis Given 18 Months, Wood 20 Months

Fines, Restitution Also Ordered In "Horrible Debacle" On Watkins Street

Monday, October 1, 2012

Federal Judge Curtis Collier, on the sixth day of a sentencing hearing in an asbestos case, on Monday handed Don Fillers a four-year prison term for his part in what his own attorney described as the "horrible debacle" on Watkins Street.

Foreman David Wood was given 20 months in prison and demolition firm owner James Mathis 18 months in connection with an inadequate abatement of asbestos that resulted in a major governmental cleanup involving the EPA and others in 2005.

The defendants were given until Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. to self-report to prison.

The judge also handed down fines and restitution in the case. The restitution amount was set at $27,899.10 each, including against the Watkins Street Project LLC. 

Fillers, 64, was also assessed fines of $20,000, $2,220 and $2,224. The corporation that he and his late brother, Gary Fillers, set up to buy the old yarn plant, was fined $30,000, $2,220 and $2,224.

Attorney Gary Humble had asked that no action be taken against the corporation, saying it is insolvent and has a $300,000 mortgage it can't pay. He said the property in Ridgedale "is like a meth house. Who is ever going to pay to buy this property." He said he expects it eventually "will go back to the bank."

Prosecutor Matthew Morrison of Knoxville had asked for "significant periods of incarceration to send out the message that this can't happen. People cannot just put jobs and profits over human health."

He said the deterrent effect of the sentence was important because he said inspectors are only able to go to about 25 percent of the demolition sites where there is asbestos and others "are on the honor system." The SCT site was discovered when inspector John Schultz of the Chattanooga Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau happened by.

Attorney Leslie Cory said Don Fillers "has led a very good life. It's obvious that many, many people looked up to Mr. Fillers as a role model. This has been a horrible debacle, but he has done everything in his power to rectify the damage."

Fillers told the court, "I'm sorry this has all happened. I would never do anything to harm my family, my friends and my neighbors. I just wish it hadn't happened."

Gary Fillers pleaded guilty early on and got a six-month home confinement sentence. He died about six weeks ago.

Attorney Gene Skiles said Wood "would never, ever want to harm anyone." He said if anyone faces long-range problems from handling the SCT asbestos, it is Wood.

Mathis gave a long statement in which he declared he was innocent of the charges. He said his demolition firm had been involved in numerous projects around the community without such problems. He said it was originally to be his role to hire an asbestos firm and he recommended SCI. Then he said the Fillers brothers decided on their own to go with a much-cheaper firm.

He said he pulled his firm off the site after a disagreement about a fluid found in an old tank. He said he wanted to have it tested, but the Fillers brothers said to just pour it out on the ground.

A jury convicted the defendants on Jan. 27 of conspiracy and criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, as well as obstruction of justice in relation to salvage and demolition activities at the plant.

Authorities said the "evidence proved that the defendants entered into a year-long scheme in which the plant was illegally demolished while still containing extensive amounts of asbestos. Additionally, the defendants hired day laborers and paid them low wages to improperly remove asbestos-
containing materials without following federal regulations that were intended to keep the asbestos, a known carcinogen, from becoming airborne where it could be inhaled."

“These sentences send a strong message that criminal violations of environmental laws
designed to protect human health from exposure to hazardous substances, such as asbestos, will
not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Killian. “Those individuals who choose to place profit over
compliance with our nation’s environmental laws will be vigorously prosecuted and brought to
justice.”

“Exposure to asbestos can cause serious, even fatal, illnesses so it must be removed
safely and in accordance with the law,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of
EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Tennessee. “The defendants in this case not only lied to
authorities and tried to cover up their actions, but they also hired homeless and untrained workers
to perform the illegal asbestos removal activities, endangering both the employees and the
greater community. Today’s sentences show that those who break the law and put the public at
risk to make illegal profits will face serious consequences.”

Attorney Flores said, "Mathis was looking at 14 years when he hired me nine weeks before the sentencing hearing.

"Mathis maintains his innocence and looks forward to appeal and post-conviction relief. We hope the Court will allow him to remain on bond pending appeal."

 
 

 

 


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: BURKS, MONICA  1908 CLEVELAND AVE CHATTANOOGA,  Age at Arrest: 18 years old Arresting Agency: East Ridge THEFT UNDER 500 --- CLARK, JARED LOPAN  480 JUNIPER COURT SPRING CITY, 37381  Age at Arrest: 26 years old Arresting Agency: Soddy Daisy POSSESSION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE ... (click for more)

Comments On The Passing Of Scotty Probasco

Senator Lamar Alexander released the following statement on the passing of Scotty Probasco: "Scotty Probasco was Chattanooga's cheerleader, a vigorous and generous advocate for so many good causes. I am especially grateful for his service on our state's governing board for higher education. He was a close friend. Honey and I will miss him greatly." The Tennessee ... (click for more)

Proud Of Hometown Boy Turned Global Leader, Bob Corker

Time Magazine has it right.  Not only is Chattanooga’s own U.S. Senator Bob Corker one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World,” but he is probably now the most prominent leader in the history of our city.   At a time of extreme frustration with Washington and Congress in general, Bob continues to rise above the division and rancor to build consensus and solve ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Great Work, Ol’ Pro!

Years ago I was lucky enough to be the seatmate of Scotty Probasco on an airplane bound for somewhere and he taught me a word that has helped me be a much better person than I ever thought I could. We were already swell friends, since he’d watched me grow up at First Presbyterian Church every Sunday with his kids, and he liked some of the stuff I tried to write back then. So ... (click for more)

CAK Beats Soddy-Daisy, 6-2, For Choo Choo Classic Softball Title

Christian Academy of Knoxville finished its run through the rain-shortened Choo Choo Classic with a 6-2 victory over Soddy-Daisy at The Summitt. Three of the Lady Warriors’ runs in the third – and last – inning came on Lady Trojans errors as the 70-minute time limit on the game expired to cap a marathon day in the tournament that was cut from two to one day by heavy rain earlier ... (click for more)

PHOTOS: CAK Drops Soddy Daisy In Choo Choo Finals, 6-2