Defendant in Asbestos Case May Have No-Contest Plea Deal Withdrawn Due to Claims of Innocence

Merced County prosecutors have announced their intention to withdraw the plea agreement reached with Rudy Buendia III, one of three men who pleaded “no contest” to violating federal asbestos law. The decision comes after Buendia repeatedly voiced his innocence to community members, including Merced County Deputy District Attorney Walter Wall, to whom he allegedly said, “You know, I didn’t do this,” when the two saw each other in public.

Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II explained why the prosecutors were intending to file a motion to withdraw the plea. “We’re not in the habit of taking [guilty or no contest] pleas from people who are maintaining their innocence,” he said. “You can’t make a plea and then turn around and say that ‘I didn’t do it.’”

The charges stemmed from an incident in which Buendia, former co-owner of the defunct non-profit organization Firm Build, employed high school students to remove asbestos during a renovation project at Castle Commerce Center’s Automotive Training Center between late 2005 and early 2006.

The arrangement was supposed to be an opportunity for the students to gain on-site work experience; instead, they were exposed to harmful toxins that can lead to numerous respiratory health problems, including mesothelioma.

“I am frankly very tired of hearing about poor Rudy Buendia,” Morse added. “The focus should be on the kids who were exposed to asbestos because [Buendia et al.] were in over their heads financially and looking to cut some corners. Buendia is most assuredly not a victim; the kids who were exposed were the victims.”

The plea deal would have sent Buendia to prison for 24 months; now, he is facing approximately 60 charges and could serve more than 30 years in prison if the motion is granted and the case goes to trial.

Comments are closed.