Federal Judge Edward Shea plans to start the first trial for defendants accused of Hanford timecard fraud next month, but which of the defendants will be tried first remains unknown.
Shea will decide after a hearing Sept. 8 which defendants will go to trial later that month, he said this week after a closed-door competency hearing for one of the defendants that lasted almost two hours.
Stephanie Livesey and Glenda Davis, former radiological control supervisors at the Hanford tank farms, were scheduled to stand trial in July.
But Davis changed her plea to guilty and now is a cooperating witness for the federal government. Livesey's attorney said earlier that she was unable to assist in preparing for the trial because of the unexpected death of her son in May. The competency hearing was for Livesey, and Shea shared no information after the hearing.
Shea earlier had divided the 10 former tank farm employees into three groups for trials.
The first group now includes only Livesey. The second group, which includes five former workers who supervised hourly employees, has been scheduled to go to trial in September and has been told to be ready to go to trial unless Livesey is tried instead.
However, the attorney for Daniel Niebuhr, one of the five former supervisors in the second group, has argued that the trial date for that group should be moved to 2015.
Davis' switch to cooperating witness for the prosecution "totally changes the landscape of this case" and more time is needed to prepare for trial, said attorney Bryan Hershman.
Since pleading guilty, Davis has said "bad things about a lot of people," but principally about Niebuhr, Hershman said.
"A vast majority of the evidence against defendant Niebuhr, to this point, has been that Mr. Niebuhr is a part of a 'culture' that allows overtime to be abused," Hershman wrote in court documents asking for an extension. "Shockingly little evidence exists, apart from this 'culture' allegation."
Hourly workers for the previous tank farm contractor at Hanford refused to work overtime unless it was offered in eight-hour blocks, according to court documents. When they completed overtime assignments, they would go home, but claim a full eight hours of overtime, CH2M Hill acknowledged in a March agreement to settle civil and criminal allegations. The former tank farm contractor agreed to pay $18.5 million.
The nine workers facing trials all had management or supervisory positions over workers who have admitted claiming hours they did not work. The nine defendants are accused of having knowledge of the timecard fraud or aiding it.
The third group of defendants includes three upper managers. A date for their trial has not been set.
-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @HanfordNews