CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Donald L. Blankenship, a titan of the nation’s coal industry whose approach to business was scrutinized and scorned after 29 workers were killed at the Upper Big Branch mine in 2010, was convicted Thursday of a federal charge of conspiring to violate mine safety standards, part of a case that emerged after the accident, the deadliest in mining in the United States in decades.
The verdict reached by a federal jury here made Mr. Blankenship, 65, the most prominent American coal executive ever to be convicted of a charge connected to the deaths of miners. He had been accused of conspiring to violate mine safety regulations, as well as of deceiving investors and regulators; prosecutors secured a conviction on only one of the three charges.
Mr. Blankenship was acquitted of making false statements and securities fraud. He faces a maximum of one year in prison on the misdemeanor conspiracy charge.
But the verdict was, by most measures, a defeat for the Justice Department, which had pursued a prosecution that could have led to a 30-year prison term. A lawyer for Mr. Blankenship, a former chief executive of the Massey Energy Company, said he intended to appeal the verdict.
The trial began with jury selection on Oct. 1 and jurors started deliberations on Nov. 17 after the defense rested its case without presenting any witnesses.
“We are disappointed, but not as disappointed as we could have been,” said the lawyer, William W. Taylor III, the leader of Mr. Blankenship’s defense team. “I’m confident that we’ll prevail on appeal.”
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