03 December 2015

29 Dead, and Only a Misdemeanor?

Donald Blankenship, former President of Massey Energy, was convicted of only a misdemeanor for his role in the deaths of miners in a mine explosion:
Donald L. Blankenship, whose leadership of the Massey Energy Company was widely criticized after 29 workers were killed in the Upper Big Branch mine in 2010, was convicted Thursday of conspiring to violate federal safety standards, becoming the most prominent American coal executive ever convicted of a crime related to mining deaths.

But in a substantial defeat for the Justice Department, the verdict, announced in Federal District Court here, exonerated Mr. Blankenship, Massey’s former chief executive, of three felony charges that could have led to a prison term of 30 years. Instead, after a protracted and complex trial that began on Oct. 1, jurors convicted Mr. Blankenship only of a single misdemeanor charge that carried a maximum of a year in prison.

“We are disappointed, but not as disappointed as we could have been,” said William W. Taylor III, a defense lawyer for Mr. Blankenship, who will appeal the conviction and is expected to be sentenced next spring.

Mr. Blankenship was not tried on any charges that accused him of direct responsibility for the deaths at Upper Big Branch, which investigators said exploded because of improper ventilation that allowed gases to accumulate. But prosecutors argued that Mr. Blankenship’s leadership had laid the groundwork for a catastrophe. There was not necessarily a formal conspiracy, prosecutors acknowledged, but they said that Mr. Blankenship’s example and tone had set Massey on a course that put profits ahead of lives.
I hope that the judge sentences him to the full year, but somehow I doubt it.

I expect him to get probation, or possibly house arrest, which would be far less satisfying than his ass getting shivved while he is in the stir.


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