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Manager vowed revenge on Alling, her lawyer says


FLORENCE – A Biosphere 2 investment banker vowed profanely to take revenge on crew member Abigail Alling, after his takeover failed in November 1993, a lawyer said yesterday in the abuse of process trial against Space Biospheres Ventures.

Under questioning by the lawyer, William Walker, the Beverly Hills, Calif., investment banker, Steve Bannon, acknowledged he “vowed to kick (Alling’s) —.’

Bannon said he was hired to stop the $1 million monthly runaway costs of the Biosphere 2 experiment, a $200-million self-contained, closed ecosystem.

Bannon resigned in late 1993 after SBV would not accept his proposal to remove top Biosphere 2 managers.

But then Ed Bass, the wealthy Texan who funded the project, decided to follow through on Bannon’s proposal on April 1, 1994. Bannon returned as acting chief executive officer of the company, replacing Margret Augustine.

This action prompted Alling and another original Biosphere 2 crew member, Mark Van Thillo, to return from a business trip in Japan, break into the system in the middle of the night and warn crew members that new management was incapable of running the project, they have said.

Alling and Van Thillo were technical and safety consultants to Biosphere 2. They were fired a few days after the break-in. In the civil trial, they are suing SBV for breach of contract and abuse of process. The trial on criminal charges in the break-in case is pending.

Bannon called Alling’s and Van Thillo’s actions “mutiny.’

Alling also angered Bannon when she was quoted in a Tucson Citizen article comparing the Biosphere 2 safety situation to management mistakes leading up to the space shuttle Challenger explosion of 1986.

Bannon said that statement was improper.

“I was humiliated,’ he said.

In preparation for a grand jury hearing for the criminal charges, Alling claimed she had written a five-page statement about the safety problems with Biosphere 2 after new management took over.

Bannon, in turn, threatened to “ram it down her ——- throat,’ Bannon told jurors.

This type of animosity tainted Alling’s case, because Bannon aggressively sought criminal prosecution of Alling and Van Thillo, thereby abusing their due process rights, said Walker, Alling’s attorney.

Bannon also said he called Alling a “self-centered, deluded young woman’ and a “bimbo.’

But animosity was inevitable, Bannon said.

“This was a bankruptcy,’ he said. “There gets to be a lot of hard feelings and broken dreams.’

Also yesterday, jurors laughed at a videotaped deposition of Augustine when she could not answer financial questions about SBV activities during the last quarter of a certain fiscal year.

“What is a last quarter?’ asked Augustine, who was wearing dark sunglasses during the taped interview.

The civil trial continues Wednesday at Pinal County Superior Court.

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