UPDATE | Federal judge refuses to toss out Don Blankenship's conviction

By  | 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP/WSAZ) -- UPDATE 11/15/20 @ 11:50 p.m.
A federal judge in West Virginia has refused to toss the misdemeanor conviction of former coal CEO Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate mine safety laws.

Don Blankenship served time for his conviction of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 miners died in 2010.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger in Beckley issued the ruling Wednesday, rejecting a recommendation from a federal magistrate judge.

Berger ruled that despite the prosecution's failure to disclose numerous documents to the defense during the discovery phase of Blankenship's trial, the conduct resulted in no prejudice toward him. Blankenship is the former CEO of Massey Energy.

The company owned a mine where a 2010 explosion killed 29 workers in southern West Virginia. Blankenship spent a year in federal prison.



UPDATE 8/26/19 @ 7:35 p.m.
A federal magistrate judge has recommended tossing former coal CEO Don Blankenship's misdemeanor conviction for conspiring to violate mine safety laws.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Omar Aboulhson wrote Monday that Blankenship's rights were violated under the Brady rule, which says suppression of evidence favorable to the accused violates due process.

He recommended that U.S. District Judge Irene Berger, who presided over Blankenship's 2015 trial, throw out the conviction.

At issue were documents that Blankenship said were not disclosed to him and his attorneys during his trial's discovery phase.

Blankenship is the former CEO of Massey Energy, which owned a mine where a 2010 explosion killed 29 workers. He spent a year in federal prison.

His conviction was upheld by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider a further appeal.



UPDATE 5/10/17 @ 6:31 p.m.
On his first day as a free man, former coal baron and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship fired off a series of tweets.

Blankenship served time for his conviction of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 miners died in 2010.

On the day his sentence ended, Blankenship took to Twitter Wednesday to maintain his innocence.

Here are a few of his tweets:

"Free speech was expensive for me but UBB truth had to be told. Nat. gas explosion just days after government/MSHA made miners cut airflow."

"If mine management had insisted UBB airflow be cut in half before the explosion it would have been news. Fact the govt did it is not news."

"Media saying Roberts, Manchin and Main oversaw independent UBB investigations is like saying the 3 Stooges were independent of each other."

"In the future Mine Safety and Health Administration must not be allowed to investigate itself."

Blankenship reiterated his belief that his conviction was politically motivated. He called out Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia in his tweets.

"I challenge Sen. Manchin to debate UBB truth. A U.S. Senator who says I have "blood on my hands" should be man enough to face me in public."

In a conference call Wednesday, Manchin told reporters his message to Blankenship.

"Don, you don't have to answer to me and you don't have to answer to federal authorities anymore, but you do have to answer to the families of the loved ones who lost their lives in the mine," Manchin said. "You're going to have to answer to them the rest of your life."

Manchin said he will not respond directly to Blankenship's criticism or request to debate. Instead, he urged Blankenship to stop posting about his claim of innocence to social media.

"You should do the right thing," Manchin said. "Just be quiet. Disappear. Leave these poor people alone in peace."

This comes after we learned on Tuesday that Blankenship has actually been out on home confinement for the last 30 days, according to WV MetroNews.

Before that, he was moved from prison to a halfway house in March.

"I think he should have done every last second in prison," said Booth Goodwin, the former U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case. "He deserved every last second and more."

Goodwin says Blankenship has not shown remorse toward the families and should take responsibility for the crime he was convicted of.

“You know, I really hope that that time that he spent in prison was used to reflect on all of the pain that he caused,” said Goodwin. “I hope when he gets out and when he is finally able to walk free and breathe free air that he will try to make amends, but I am not holding my breath.”

WSAZ reached out to a friend of Blankenship's to ask about an interview. We have not received an answer yet.



UPDATE 5/9/17 @ 11:10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WV MetroNews/WSAZ) – Former coal baron and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship's one year prison sentence ends Wednesday.

But we learned on Tuesday that Blankenship has actually been out on home confinement for the last 30 days, according to WV MetroNews.

His home confinement came after his move to a halfway house back in March.

Blankenship served time for his conviction of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 miners died in 2010.

On Tuesday, the former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Blankenship called his release to home confinement insulting to the victims.

“You know, I really hope that that time that he spent in prison was used to reflect on all of the pain that he caused,” Booth Goodwin said. “I hope when he gets out and when he is finally able to walk free and breathe free air that he will try to make amends, but I am not holding my breath.”

Blankenship is the highest ranking coal executive to go to prison for workplace safety violations.



ORIGINAL STORY 3/24/17
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Former coal baron and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has been moved to a halfway house for the remainder of his prison sentence.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, Blankenship, 67, was moved to a Residential Reentry Management field office in Phoenix.

Blankenship had been in a federal prison in California since May 12.

His move to the RRM comes with less than two months to go in his sentence. According to the FBP website, he is set to be released on May 10, 2017.

Blankenship was convicted in December 2015 of willfully conspiring to violate mine safety laws at the Upper Big Branch Mine. He was sentenced to one year in prison.

Twenty-nine miners were killed in an explosion at the mine in April 2010.



 
Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station. powered by Disqus