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Court Ruling in Italy Reverberates in Connecticut

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Yale University awarded Stefan Schmidheiny an honorary degree for his support of eco-friendly sustainable growth and development.

Reaction to a recent ruling by Italy’s highest court is being closely watched here in Connecticut. 

The Italian Supreme Court has thrown out the case of billionaire Stefan Schmidheiny, former owner of the Eternit company. 

Schmidheiny was sentenced in absentia last year to 18 years in prison after a lower court ruled that Eternit took no serious precautions in the 1970s and 80s to protect its employees from the potentially lethal dangers of asbestos exposure, and that negligence led to the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

Now, that sentence has been overturned. Italy’s highest court said too much time has passed since the alleged crime.

In the mid-90s, Yale University awarded Schmidheiny an honorary degree for his support of eco-friendly sustainable growth and development. There were calls by asbestos victims and their families, and more than 50 Yale alumni, to revoke the honor.

But Yale has maintained throughout that the honorary degree was based on Schmidheiny’s environmental advocacy.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.
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