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NEW INFO: Ex W.Va. Mine Boss Says Lawyer Made Him a Scapegoat

By: Cathleen Moxley; Anna Baxter; The Associated Press Email
By: Cathleen Moxley; Anna Baxter; The Associated Press Email

 

Statement from Goose and Mindi Stewart

First, my wife Mindi and I would like to express our sadness that another family is being impacted by the tragedy of April 5, 2010. We're certain Mr. May's family is suffering tremendous fear and sadness at this time.

 

 

That being said, we would also like to express our gratitude to the Federal Prosecutor and his staff for pursuing justice in this case. Nothing can bring back the wonderful and brave men who were murdered and injured on April 5th and our hearts still go out to the families of those miners. The best outcome of this entire investigation would be the indictments, trials and prosecutions of all those who were responsible for UBB's explosion from the upper Management at UBB up to and including Don Blankenship.

 

 

Everytime an event occurs that has to do with the tragedy at the mine, our family suffers the pain of reliving that horrible day. I ask you to respect our family and our need for privacy. We will not be releasing any further comments regarding this story.

 

 

Thank you,

Goose and Mindi Stewart

UPDATE 9/24/13 @ 10:30 a.m.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - A former superintendent of the Upper Big Branch mine says his lawyer was ineffective, had conflicts of interest and made him a scapegoat for the disaster that killed 29 men in 2010.

Gary May wants U.S. District Judge Irene Berger to set aside or change the 21-month sentence he's serving at the Federal Correctional Institution at Morgantown.

May says defense attorney Tim Carrico refused to let him testify that illegal advance warning of inspections was common practice at Massey Energy operations now owned by Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources.

Carrico didn't immediately return a phone message Tuesday.

May says he was muzzled to protect Massey executives from prosecution, and that longtime Massey general counsel Shane Harvey directed Carrico's actions.

Harvey denied that and said he was not involved in May's case.



UPDATE 9/10/13 @ 6 p.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- A former Massey Energy executive who admitted conspiring in an illegal advance-warning scheme at West Virginia coal mines will spend 42 months behind bars.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger sentenced former White Buck Coal president David Hughart in Beckley Tuesday on conspiracy charges that grew out of a criminal investigation into the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

Though Hughart never worked at Upper Big Branch, he is cooperating in the continuing probe of the 2010 explosion that killed 29 men.

Hughart admitted he helped ensure miners at other Massey operations got illegal advance warning of surprise safety inspections.

Hughart said in court, "I'm sorry for what I've done -- prenotifying about mine inspections. I grew up that way. I accepted it as common practice. I know better now, and I apologize."

During his plea hearing earlier this year he implicated Massey CEO Don Blankenship in that conspiracy.

Massey is now owned by Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources. Blankenship denies any wrongdoing.



UPDATE 9/10/13 @ 2:40 p.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- A judge has revoked the $10,000 bond of a former Massey Energy executive cooperating in the investigation of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, say they'll ask another judge to immediately detain David Hughart when he's sentenced later Tuesday on conspiracy charges.

Magistrate Clarke VanDervort revoked Hughart's bond following his arrest last week on drug charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby said Beckley police stopped Hughart because he was driving erratically.

Hughart faces up to six years in prison when he appears before U.S. District Judge Irene Berger.

He admitted giving miners at Massey subsidiary White Buck Coal Co. illegal advance warning about surprise inspections.

Hughart never worked at Upper Big Branch, where 29 miners died in 2010. But he has implicated former Massey officials in the scheme.

We have a crew in Beckley. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 9/8/13 @ 8:20 a.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- A former Massey Energy executive cooperating in the investigation of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster faces two judges in Beckley.

David Hughart has a bond-revocation hearing Tuesday, following his recent arrest on drug charges.

Then, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger will sentence him on federal conspiracy charges that could carry up to six years in prison.

Hughart admitted conspiring with others to give miners at Massey subsidiary White Buck Coal illegal advance warning about surprise inspections. He was fired in March 2010 after failing a random drug test.

Hughart never worked at Upper Big Branch, where 29 miners died in an April 2010 explosion, but he implicated former Massey CEO Don Blankenship in the advance-warning scheme.

Massey is now owned by Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources. Blankenship denies any wrongdoing.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 9/6/13 @ 2:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A former Massey Energy executive cooperating in the investigation of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster and awaiting sentencing for conspiracy has been arrested on drug charges.

David Hughart now faces a bond-revocation hearing with a magistrate judge at 1 p.m. Tuesday. He's to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Irene Berger at 2:30 p.m.

Court documents show an arrest warrant was issued Thursday after probation officer Amy Berry-Richmond informed the court Hughart was caught in Beckley Aug. 30 with the painkiller oxycodone and the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam.

The Charleston Gazette says he lacked prescriptions for them.

Hughart admitted conspiring with others to give miners at Massey's White Buck Coal illegal advance warning about surprise inspections.

He never worked at UBB, where 29 miners died in a 2010 explosion



UPDATE 5/30/13
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- Sentencing is being delayed for a former Massey Energy mine president who pleaded guilty to charges resulting from an investigation into the 2010 explosion at another Massey operation that killed 29 men.

The Associated Press reports that a federal judge has agreed to postpone David Hughart's scheduled June 25 sentencing until Aug. 1 at the request of his attorney

Hughart pleaded guilty to two federal conspiracy charges for working with others to ensure miners at Massey operations got advance warning about surprise federal inspections between 2000 and March 2010.

He is cooperating with federal investigators and has implicated former chief executive Don Blankenship in safety violations at the company. Blankenship has denied wrongdoing.

Hughart faces up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $350,000.



UPDATE 3/12/13
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- A former superintendent at the West Virginia coal mine where 29 men died in 2010 is now behind bars at a federal prison in Morgantown.

Gary May was sentenced in January to 21 months in prison on a conspiracy charge for his actions at the former Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch Mine.

U.S. Bureau of Prisons records showed Tuesday that May has reported to the minimum-security prison for men.

The 44-year-old Bloomingrose resident pleaded guilty last year to charges that he defrauded the government with actions that included disabling a methane gas monitor and falsifying records.

May has cooperated with prosecutors in their continuing criminal investigation of the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years. He testified at the sentencing of former Massey security chief Hughie Stover.



UPDATE 2/28/13 @ 6:30 p.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A revelation was made in federal court, dealing with the massive mine explosion that killed 29 men.

The blast happened nearly three years ago at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County, W.Va.

Since then, an investigation has sent several people to prison.

Thursday, another man learned he too faces time behind bars, and before leaving the courtroom, he revealed who the orders came from.

Former Massey coal executive, David Hughart, admitted to playing a role in some major safety violations.

“What happened at UBB was a tragedy,” Jonathan Hughart, David Hughart’s son, said.

Jonathan mourns for the miners' families, but says his family is feeling the impact too. His father will be the fourth person sentenced in the investigation.

“My father never did step foot on the property of UBB,” Jonathan said. “He's never been on that property. He's never been underground there.”

Regardless, Hughart pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges.

He admits to making sure workers underground were given advanced warnings about surprise inspections, and ensuring any violations were fixed before inspectors arrived.

“He's told the complete truth on everything that he's been asked,” Jonathan said.

And when a federal judge asked him who gave those orders, Hughart said “the chief executive officer.” His name wasn't mentioned in court, but the CEO at the time was Don Blankenship.

Blankenship has been the center of controversy several times, but has never been charged in connection with the violations.

Instead, former employees, like Hughart, are paying the price.

“He is a man of integrity and dignity and he was threatened numerous times to lose his job if he did not answer correctly,” Karen Hughart, David Hughart’s wife, said.

Hughart is the former president of Massey’s Green Valley Resource Group.

He faces up to six years in federal prison, and will be sentenced June 25.

WSAZ.com did reach out to Blankenship for comment, but has not yet heard back from him.

Blankenship retired as Massey’s CEO in 2010.



UPDATE 2/28/13 @ 11:35 a.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- A former president of a Massey Energy subsidiary has implicated the company's chief executive officer as he pleaded guilty to charges resulting from an investigation into the 2010 explosion at another Massey operation that killed 29 men.

David Hughart, 53, of Crab Orchard, pleaded guilty to two federal conspiracy charges on Thursday in federal court in Beckley.

Hughart was accused of working with others to ensure miners at Massey operations got advance warning about surprise federal inspections between 2000 and March 2010.

When asked by the judge where the orders for the advanced warning came from, Hughart said it came from the company's chief executive officer.

Former CEO Don Blankenship was not mentioned by name, and federal prosecutors declined comment after the hearing.

Many victims' families have said they want Blankenship prosecuted.

“Mine safety and health laws are not optional," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. "This prosecution reiterates the message that mine safety violations are very serious crimes."

Hughart is believed to be the highest-ranking mine official ever convicted of conspiracy to impede or conspiracy to violate mine health and safety standards, according to the release.

Hughart faces up to six years in prison and a $350,000 fine when he is sentenced on June 25 by United States District Judge Irene C. Berger.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/17/13 @ 1:15 p.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The highest ranking official to be charged in the Upper Big Branch mine blast learned his fate Thursday.

Gary May, 43, of Bloomingrose, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Beckley. May was the mine's Superintendent at the time of the explosion.

May pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in March 2012. He's cooperating with federal authorities in the ongoing criminal investigation of the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners.

During Thursday's hearing, the judge sentenced May to 21 months in federal prison and three years supervised release. He will also have to pay a $20,000 fine.

Prosecutors say May disabled a methane gas monitor, falsified safety records and used code words to tip off miners underground about surprise inspections.

According to a news release, May admitted that he and others conspired to impede MSHA in administering and enforcing mine health and safety laws at UBB. He acknowledged giving advance warning of MSHA inspections, often using code phrases to avoid detection, according to the release.

May also admitted to concealing health and safety violations when he knew inspections were imminent. The violations concealed included poor airflow in the mine; piles of loose, combustible coal; and scarcities of rock dust, which prevents mine explosions, prosecutors say.

"With this sentence, Judge Berger took the opportunity to send a powerful message to this mine manager and other mine managers who would put profits over safety: if you violate mine laws and put miners at risk you will go to jail," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said.

May is just one of three people who have been charged in the ongoing investigation.

Former UBB security chief Hughie Elbert Stover is currently in prison for his conviction on charges that he lied to investigators and ordered a subordinate to destroy documents.

David Hughart has also been charged in the investigation.

The former executive is accused of working with others to give miners advance warning about federal inspections at several Massey mines.

Hughart's expected to be back in court next month.

According to court records, a plea hearing is scheduled for February 28 at 10 a.m.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/17/13 @ 11:20 a.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A former superintendent at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County will spend nearly two years in prison.

Gary May was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Beckley.

May pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in March 2012. He's cooperating with federal authorities in the ongoing criminal investigation of the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners.

During Thursday's hearing, the judge sentenced May to 21 months in federal prison and three years supervised release. He will also have to pay a $20,000 fine.

Prosecutors say May disabled a methane gas monitor, falsified safety records and used code words to tip off miners underground about surprise inspections.

May is the highest ranking official to be charged in the blast.

Former UBB security chief Hughie Elbert Stover is currently in prison for his conviction on charges that he lied to investigators and ordered a subordinate to destroy documents.

David Hughart has also been charged in the ongoing investigation.

The former executive is accused of working with others to give miners advance warning about federal inspections at several Massey mines.

Hughart's expected to be back in court next month.

According to court records, a plea hearing is scheduled for February 28 at 10 a.m.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/2/13 @ 3:44 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A former superintendent at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine is asking a judge to delay his sentencing.

Gary May's lawyer, Tim Carrico, argues in a recent filing that public interests in sentencing May on Jan. 17 are outweighed by public interests that would be furthered by delaying the proceeding.

May pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in March 2012. He's cooperating with federal authorities in the ongoing criminal investigation of the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners.

Carrico says May would lose the benefit of his plea agreement's cooperation provision if his sentencing isn't delayed. Consequently, he would lose the opportunity to provide additional cooperation.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger denied a prosecution motion to delay the sentencing.

The Associated Press reported May's filing Wednesday.



UPDATE 12/20/12 @ 1:40 p.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- The January sentencing of a former superintendent at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine will go on as planned.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger denied a postponement Wednesday, saying prosecutors failed to give good reason.

Gary May is set to be sentenced Jan. 17 in Beckley. He pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in March.

May is cooperating with prosecutors in the ongoing criminal investigation of the 2010 explosion at the former Massey Energy mine, where 29 men died. It was the worst U.S. mining disaster in four decades.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin argued he needed more time to develop May's cooperation.

Former UBB security chief Hughie Elbert Stover is currently in prison for his conviction on charges that he lied to investigators and ordered a subordinate to destroy documents.



UPDATE 12/12/12 @ 2 p.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- An ex-president of Massey Energy's White Buck Coal Co. will enter a plea on conspiracy charges in January.

David Hughart is set to appear Jan. 16 before U.S. District Judge Irene Berger in Beckley.

Hughart is cooperating in a continuing investigation of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, an April 2010 explosion at another former Massey operation that killed 29 men.

Massey and the mine are now owned by Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources.

Prosecutors say Hughart worked with unnamed co-conspirators to ensure miners at White Buck and other, unidentified Massey-owned operations got advance warning about surprise federal inspections many times between 2000 and March 2010. That allegedly gave workers time to conceal life-threatening violations that could have led to citations and shutdowns.

Hughart faces up to six years behind bars.



UPDATE 11/28/12 @ 10:14 a.m.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- An executive who ran several coal companies faces criminal conspiracy charges and is cooperating with federal prosecutors investigating a West Virginia mine explosion that was the nation's worst in four decades.

Massey Energy coal executive David Craig Hughart is named in a federal information document filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. An information document signals that a defendant is cooperating.

The document accuses Hughart of working with unidentified co-conspirators to ensure miners at White Buck Coal Co. and other Massey-owned mines received advanced warning about federal inspections over a 10-year period.

Although the document doesn't directly mention the Upper Big Branch mine, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin tells The Associated Press the charges stem from his continuing investigation of the April 2010 explosion there that killed 29 men.



UPDATE 10/11/12 @ 10:43 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says the continuing probe of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster will soon produce more criminal charges.

Goodwin said Wednesday he expects to make some announcements shortly. The Associated Press says Goodwin offered no specifics.

His comments came at a meeting of a health and safety foundation created under a $200 settlement Goodwin's office reached with the mine's current owner, Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources.

The April 2010 explosion killed 29 men.

Two criminal prosecutions so far have been directly linked to the blast.

Former superintendent Gary May awaits sentencing in January for conspiracy to defraud the federal government and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Ex-security chief Hughie Stover is appealing his conviction for lying to investigators and ordering a subordinate to destroy documents during the investigation.



UPDATE 8/30/12
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The sentencing of a former Upper Big Branch Mine superintendent has been delayed as the government continues to press ahead on a criminal investigation of the April 2010 disaster that killed 29 miners.

Former superintendent Gary May has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government for his actions at the mine. He's cooperating with prosecutors in a continuing investigation.

Prosecutors say that the government needs more time to develop the extent of May's cooperation.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger has rescheduled May's sentencing for Jan. 17. He was to be sentenced Oct. 4 in Beckley.

Investigators have said widespread safety violations for the worst U.S. coal disaster in decades



UPDATE 6/11/12
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- Federal prosecutors want to delay the sentencing of the former superintendent of the Upper Big Branch Mine by about 60 days.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger had scheduled Gary May's sentencing for Aug. 9 in Beckley, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Ruby wants to postpone.

Ruby says May is cooperating in an ongoing criminal investigation of the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 coal miners. Investigators need more time to fully develop that cooperation.

Ruby says in a court filing that May doesn't object to the delay.

May pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to defraud the federal government. He's the highest-ranking mine official charged so far in the blast.

Ex-security chief Hughie Elbert Stover is appealing his conviction and a three-year sentence for lying to investigators.



UPDATE 4/13/12
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Federal prosecutors are investigating suggestions by the former superintendent of the Upper Big Branch mine that inspectors told miners they were coming.

The revelation came during Gary May's recent plea hearing. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says he's following up.

Goodwin says his staff pays attention to what defendants say in court. That includes May's suggestion that Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors participated in the mine's early warning system.

An April 2010 explosion killed 29 men.

Several investigations concluded workers routinely alerted miners underground when inspectors were onsite, allowing time to conceal hazards.

MSHA says it never heard from May until his plea hearing because he refused to cooperate in investigations.

MSHA says it will take appropriate action if prosecutors obtain and share evidence of misconduct.



UPDATE 4/6/12
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - A judge says the former superintendent of the Upper Big Branch mine can't leave West Virginia this weekend to attend his daughter's softball tournament.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger denied Gary May's request to travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C., from Sunday through April 14.

Berger says May failed to establish good cause to support his motion.

May recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government for his actions at the former Massey Energy where 29 men died two years ago.

May is cooperating with federal prosecutors in a continuing investigation and will be sentenced Aug. 9.

He is the highest-ranking mine official charged in the blast.

Former security chief Hughie Elbert Stover is appealing his conviction and a three-year sentence for lying to investigators



UPDATE 3/29/12 @ 12:20 p.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ & AP) -- The former superintendent of West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine has pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge.

May pleaded guilty Thursday before U.S. District Judge Irene Berger in Beckley to conspiracy to defraud the federal government. The charge stems from his actions at the former Massey Energy mine where 29 men died April 5, 2010.

Prosecutors say May disabled a methane monitor, falsified records and manipulated the ventilation system to fool inspectors.

"People who run coal mines have a fundamental obligation to be honest with mine regulators," Goodwin said. "When mine operators resort to tricks and deceit to keep government officials in the dark, our mine safety system unravels and miners are put in harm's way. The least we can do for coal miners is protect the integrity of the laws designed to keep them safe."

May is the highest-ranking company official charged in connection with the blast.

"I'm pleased that Mr. May is cooperating with our investigation," Goodwin continued. "We hope he can give us a better picture of what was going on at this company."

During the hearing Thursday, May admitted he and others conspired to impede MSHA in administering and enforcing mine health and safety laws at UBB, according to the release.

May told prosecutors that he gave advanced warning of MSHA inspections, often using code phrases to avoid detection.

May also admitted to concealing health and safety violations when he knew inspections were imminent, according to release. The violations concealed included poor airflow in the mine, piles of loose combustible coal and scarcities of rock dust, which prevents mine explosions.

According to the release, May further acknowledged that he ordered a mine examination book to be falsified. He also said he told miners to rewire the methane gas detector on a piece of mine equipment so the equipment could run illegally.

If convicted, May faces up to five years in prison a $250,000 fine.

His sentencing is set for August 9.



UPDATE 3/29/12 @ 8:45 a.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- The former superintendent of West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine is headed to court.

Gary May is set to enter a plea Thursday morning before U.S. District Judge Irene Berger in Beckley.

He's charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government for his actions at the former Massey Energy mine where 29 men died April 5, 2010.

The Bloomingrose resident is apparently cooperating with prosecutors and is the highest-ranking company official charged yet in connection with the blast.

He's accused of disabling a methane monitor, falsifying records and manipulating the ventilation system to fool inspectors.

Prosecutors say they don't need to prove the government suffered any monetary loss to prove fraud. They say anyone who conspires to undermine the integrity of the government can be found guilty of the charge.

The plea hearing is set for 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Beckley.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for more information.



UPDATE 3/12/12 @ 10 a.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- The former superintendent of the Upper Big Branch mine will enter a plea next week.

Gary May will appear before U.S. District Judge Irene Berger in Beckley on March 22.

May has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government and is apparently cooperating with prosecutors in a continuing criminal investigation of the 2010 explosion that killed 29 men. The blast at the former Massey Energy mine was the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in four decades.

Last week, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin asked Berger to schedule a hearing.

May is the highest-ranking company official charged in the blast.

May was accused, among other things, of disabling a methane gas monitor, falsifying safety records and using code words to tip off miners underground about surprise inspections.



CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ & AP) -- Federal prosecutors have charged the superintendent of a southern West Virginia mine with conspiracy to defraud the federal government, making him the highest-ranking Massey Energy employee yet to face criminal prosecution in connection with the deadly explosion.

Gary May is named in a federal information, a document that signals he's cooperating with prosecutors. The information was filed on Wednesday in federal court.

May began working at UBB in or about February 2008 as a Mine Foreman. Then, in October 2009, May was promoted to Mine Superintendent.

According to the information, between 2008 and 2010 May along with others "unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly, combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed together with each other to defraud the United States and an agency thereof, to wit, to hamper, hinder, impede, and obstruct by trickery, deceit, and dishonest means, the lawful and legitimate functions of DOL and its agency, MSHA, in the administration and enforcement of mine health and safety laws at UBB."

The information also states May along with others would alter and authorize the ventilation system of the mine to direct additional air to the area where the inspection was to take place. According to the information, it was done in order to conceal and cover up the quality of air that normally reached that area of the mine.

According to investigators there was also an incident between 2008 and 2010 that May knew MSHA was about to sample the level of respirable dust in a portion of the mine when he redirected additional air to conceal and cover up the quantity of air that would have reached that portion of the mine under normal conditions.

May, along with others, is also accused of using code phrases to give this advance notice of MSHA inspections, in order to conceal from MSHA the fact that such advance notice was being given, according to the information.

Investigators also state in the information, that on an occasion between February 2008 and April 5, 2010 May ordered a known person to falsify examination record books by "omitting a hazardous condition, to wit, water of a depth that made it unsafe to travel a certain area of the mine."

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says his investigation of the worst U.S. mine disaster in four decades isn't finished but didn't immediately comment further Wednesday.

The April 2010 blast at the Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 men.

The court records also state that May falsified, authorized and caused the falsification of examination record books at UBB.

"If anybody's tampered with anything, if anyone adjusted something because they were more concerned with production rather than the safety of the miner, then the consequences will be paid by them," Senator Joe Manchin said. "I don't think the punishment could be tough enough for the crime that was committed because we lost 29 miners."

This is information was filed just a day before the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training is scheduled to release its final report into the UBB disaster.

A news conference is scheduled for Thursday in Beckley.

Although other disasters have led to criminal charges, they've typically targeted low-ranking employees with misdemeanors.

The other criminal defendant is former security chief Hughie Elbert Stover. He's awaiting sentencing for lying to investigators and trying to destroy documents. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 29 in Beckley.

May, became an employee of an Alpha Natural Resources subsidiary following Alpha’s acquisition of Massey Energy last year. May has been placed on administrative leave, according to a company spokesperson.

Statement from Alpha Natural Resources
Alpha Natural Resources has learned that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charleston, W. Va., filed charges this morning in the United States District Court—Southern District of West Virginia against a former employee of Performance Coal Company.

Performance Coal was the operator of the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, at the time of an explosion on April 5, 2010 that took the lives of 29 miners. Performance Coal was part of the Massey Energy organization, which Alpha acquired in June 2011.

The subject of the charges filed this morning, Gary May, became an employee of an Alpha Natural Resources subsidiary following Alpha’s acquisition of Massey Energy last year. May has been placed on administrative leave.

Alpha has pledged since its acquisition of Massey Energy that it will cooperate fully with the U.S. Attorney’s office, the U.S. Department of Justice, and all agencies investigating the 2010 accident at the Upper Big Branch mine.

Although Alpha was not operator of the mine at the time of the accident, the company supports efforts that will lead to a full understanding of the circumstances that precipitated this tragic event.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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