Tennessee Taxpayers Funding Asbestos Defense of ‘Pauper’ who Owned More than 40 Properties

Posted on December 7, 2012 at 8:58am by

We posted this video in October after US District Judge Curtis Collier sentenced David Wood, James Mathis, Donald Fillers and the Watkins Street Project LLC for convictions of conspiracy and violating clean air laws in tearing down an old textile mill. The sentences were the result of the partial demolition of the Standard Coosa Thatcher plant in Ridgedale, Tennessee that the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported “created asbestos-containing dust that blew throughout the area of 17th Street between Watkins and Dodds avenues, across the street from residential housing and near a day care center.”

Fillers—whose four-year prison sentence was the longest of the three men—is appealing his sentence, and the Free Press reported that he will be allowed to do so “on the taxpayers’ dime.” According to the Free Press, Fillers claims he cannot afford to pay for an attorney, “so the lawyer that he still owes more than $20,000 now has become his court-appointed lawyer.” Fillers filed an affidavit seeking “pauper status” and an appointed attorney on November 13, 2012.

The Free Press reported that Fillers said “his 2009 income of $4,000 a month from Chattanooga Hardwood Co. stopped that year, and properties purchased for nearly $2.5 million and assessed for taxes at $742,534 have outstanding loans totaling $18.5 million.” However, court documents showed Fillers transferred his Missionary Ridge home and 40 other properties to his wife on May 19, 2010, while awaiting trial on federal charges of violating asbestos regulations.

According to the Free Press, US District Court Magistrate William Carter granted Fillers pauper status on November 19, although it included this caveat: “[The] defendant could at a later date be required to repay any cost to the government for providing counsel, filing fees or expenses for the appeal of the case if it was later determined he had the funds to hire his own lawyer.”

The East Chattanooga demolition occurred between August 2004 and December 2005, creating air that one resident had told WDEF-TV you could not breathe “because it was so toxic.” This type of asbestos exposure has been linked to lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Additional information about occupations with high risk for mesothelioma can be found on our website, and you may be entitled to compensation if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure. contact our firm today at (800) 687-3333 or complete the form on this page to let our Dallas litigation lawyers review your case.

Stanley Iola, LLP – Dallas litigation attorneys



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