SALINAS, Calif. -- It's a courtroom asbestos case with an unusual twist. State Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office has dropped charges against the construction-project manager who gave a California courthouse a first-hand exposure to the dangerous fiber. Asbestos exposure has drawn billions of dollars in class-action lawsuit awards and settlements over the past few decades here. Instead the manager will testify against his employer, Nova Partners, which was managing renovation of the north wing of the Salinas courthouse, in central California. The attorney general indicted Nova and several others earlier this year, and project manager Skanska agreed to pay a $750,000 fine in November. The attorney general alleges that Nova ignored warnings and began demolition that released asbestos into the courthouse's ventilation system, endangering other workers and the public. The courthouse's north wing is now completely closed. Nova Partners faces three felony and three misdemeanor charges in the case.

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