December 10, 2015
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship faces up to one year in prison after being convicted of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws Dec. 3. The misdemeanor charge was the lightest of the three he was facing; he was found not guilty of securities fraud and making false statements, both felonies.
West Virginia University law professor Patrick McGinley, who helped investigate the explosion that killed 29 miners at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in 2010, called the conspiracy conviction “a historical first” that brings “some measure of justice to the families of men who died,” but added that deliberately violating safety laws is only a misdemeanor indicates “that Congress doesn’t take jeopardizing coal miners’ lives seriously enough.” Blankenship’s defense, which included at least six lawyers paid for by Massey, probably cost at least $10 million, McGinley estimated. Read more