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Federal Jury Hands Down Rare Conviction For Coal Executive
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Federal Jury Hands Down Rare Conviction For Coal Executive

Law

Federal Jury Hands Down Rare Conviction For Coal Executive

Federal Jury Hands Down Rare Conviction For Coal Executive
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A federal jury has convicted former Massy Energy CEO Don Blankenship for conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards at the Upper Big Branch mine, site of a 2010 explosion that killed 29 people. The misdemeanor charge carries a sentence of up to one year in prison. He was acquitted of two more serious charges involving securities fraud and making false statements.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In West Virginia, a federal jury has convicted former Massy Energy CEO Don Blankenship of conspiring to willfully violate federal mine safety laws. The case concerned the Upper Big Branch mine. In 2010, an explosion there killed 29 miners. Convictions like this are rare among top coal executives. From West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Ashton Marra has more.

ASHTON MARRA, BYLINE: Dozens of West Virginians gathered outside the Charleston courthouse awaiting the verdict - guilty on one misdemeanor charge, not guilty on two felony counts.

SHIRLEY WHITT: They did say guilty, so he's not walking away from this.

MARRA: Shirley Whitt lost her brother in the mine explosion that sparked the investigation into Massey Energy and its CEO. The two felony charges were for allegedly lying to investors and securities officials. But U.S. attorney Booth Goodwin maintains the misdemeanor conviction is still a victory.

BOOTH GOODWIN: I'm not, in any way, disappointed with this result. I think it brings justice and justice that was long overdue.

MARRA: The prosecution had tied the felony charges to company generated documents about safety which the defense argued could not be traced to Blankenship himself. Bill Taylor is Blankenship's lead attorney.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BILL TAYLOR: There's never been a charge of securities fraud based upon the kind of subjective language like that. You know, there was a quality of make-it-up-as-you-go-along in this case.

MARRA: No further charges are expected in the Massey investigation. Blankenship's attorneys, however, say they will appeal the misdemeanor conviction. Sentencing is scheduled for March. For NPR News, I'm Ashton Marra in Charleston, W. Va.

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