Don Blankenship convicted in December of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws
CHARLESTON, W.Va.—A federal judge sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to 12 months in prison, closing another chapter on the deadliest U.S. coal mining accident in more than four decades.
Mr. Blankenship, 66 years old, was convicted in December on one misdemeanor count of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws, while being acquitted of more serious counts of lying to investors and regulators.
The sentence, which included a $250,000 fine, was handed down by U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger six years and one day after Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine exploded on April 5, 2010, killing 29 men and leaving a scar across a state that has long relied on coal mining.
Prosecutors never alleged that Mr. Blankenship’s actions caused the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, but the accident was regularly invoked by prosecutors and the defense at trial.
In handing down the maximum penalties allowable under federal law, Judge Berger invoked West Virginia’s legacy of mining and Mr. Blankenship’s own personal history as a native of the state’s rural coalfields who rose from poverty to sit atop Massey. However, she said he abused the trust of Massey’s shareholders, its officers and most importantly its employees by putting profits ahead of safety.
“Instead of being able to tout you as a West Virginia success story, we are here as a result of your participation in a dangerous conspiracy,” the judge said.
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