This is rich. As PG&E awaits being vilified in front of a jury in the criminal trial pertaining to the infamous 2010 San Bruno cul de sac inferno, their lawyers are pulling out all the stops to try to get the charges against them reduced or dropped on a technicality or what they are categorizing as "tainted" evidence that must be thrown out. As the Chronicle reports on the trial, which began its preliminary stages in April jury selection, originally scheduled for April 26, has already been delayed until June 14 attorneys for the utility are arguing that the prosecution is using evidence that was wrongfully obtained to bring its 13 felony charges against them. The PG&E team is now asserting, outrageously, that the judge throw out some or all of the 13 counts because members of the "prosecution team" were apprised of confidential PG&E records revealed during a state probe by the California Public Utilities Commission.
But PG&E's lawyers are categorizing four expert witnesses for the prosecution as members of the prosecution team, which appears to be a point for debate and will be up to U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson to decide. One of these witnesses, Margaret Felts, has previously testified to the PUC that PG&E's shoddy record keeping was to blame for the explosion that killed eight people, injured 66, and destroyed 38 homes.
The utility was ultimately fined $1.4 billion by the PUC in 2014, citing some nearly 3,800 violations of state and federal law and regulations in connection with the operation of its gas transmission system.
The defense is arguing that prosecutors lied to the trial judge when they claimed that "members of the prosecution team did not participate" in the PUC probe, and "These misrepresentations have harmed the defendant’s right to a fair trial."
The U.S. Attorney's Office has so far declined to comment on the moves by PG&E's legal team, and it remains to be seen what will come of this Hail Mary attempt to get this potentially damning case dismissed.
The Erin Brockovich-style dramatization is still TBA.