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Coal Executive Found Guilty on One Charge of Three
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Massey Energy

Summary: Don Blankenship, the former Massey Energy Chief Executive, was acquitted of the greater charges against him but prosecutors and affected coal families called it a win.

A federal jury let Massey Energy Chief Executive Don Blankenship off the hook. While they did find him guilty of conspiracy to violate federal safety laws, he was acquitted of the more serious charges of lying to investors.


The West Virginia coal mine explosion in 2010 at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine was the worst mining accident of forty years. The accident devastated the coal-centric state and for two months they have been waiting for someone to face responsibility for it. While the case sets a precedent for high-ranking executives of major U.S. corporations to be held liable for workplace-safety accidents, the outcome allows for any targeted executives to breathe easier. The conspiracy charge is a misdemeanor with a maximum prison sentence of a year.

Blankenships attorney William Taylor will appeal the decision stating, “This case should never have been brought. This is a record which will be very full of errors on appeal.” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin is pleased with the decision, “The CEO and chairman of one of America’s largest coal companies now stands convicted. To go from boardroom to prospective incarceration sends a powerful message to executives who would ignore the safety or their workers.”

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez was also pleased with the verdict saying, “there must be accountability when people lose their lives because of the neglect of their employer.” Two former Massey managers and a former security chief have already served prison terms for their role in the accident. The managers admitted to conspiring to violate safety laws and the security chief was convicted of lying to investigators and attempting to dispose of safety-related documents.

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The mine had broken water sprays on a cutting machine, letting coal dust build up and allow a spark to set off the massive explosion that ripped through two miles of tunnels.




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