Federal prosecutors on March 10 filed a new “superseding” indictment against former Massey Energy CEO and Chairman Don Blankenship, which adds to the charges in a previous indictment new charges that Blankenship violated federal coal dust safety standards.
The initial indictment, filed last November at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, accuses him of orchestrating a sub-par safety program at Massey that led to 29 miners being killed in 2010 in the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion in southern West Virginia.
Blankenship, who left Massey not long before it was bought in 2011 by Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR), has denied the charges and says they are the result of a political vendetta waged by Democratic politicians. Blankenship has been a powerful political figure in West Virginia over the past 20+ years, funneling millions of dollars into Republican political campaigns.
The arraignment on this new indictment has been set for March 24.
In the meantime, his attorneys on March 12 filed a request with the court to give him some leeway on travel restrictions and on who he can talk to.
“On January 22, 2015, Mr. Blankenship filed a motion for de novo review of his conditions of pretrial release,” said the March 12 filing. “The motion asks the District Court to strike or substantially modify certain conditions of release that impose onerous restrictions on Mr. Blankenship’s liberties – restrictions which lack basis in law or fact and which are not the ‘least restrictive’ conditions necessary to reasonably assure his appearance or the safety of any other person in the community. The conditions prevent Mr. Blankenship from residing in his home state and from having any contact at all, on any subject, with thousands upon thousands of individuals, including former colleagues and close friends. Each day that passes with these conditions intact works an unconstitutional, unnecessary and intolerable hardship on Mr. Blankenship. The conditions bear no relationship to risk of flight or community safety, and their continued enforcement is purely punitive.
“While awaiting the District Court’s ruling on this motion, Mr. Blankenship sought permission from his probation officer to make a trip to his home in Nevada to attend to personal matters. Today, the probation officer informed Mr. Blankenship that it is necessary for him to make this request to the court.
“WHEREFORE, Mr. Blankenship respectfully requests that the District Court enter an order granting his pending motion to strike or substantially modify: (1) the residency requirement in paragraph 7(s) of the Order Setting Conditions of Release; (2) all travel restrictions in paragraph 7(f) of the Order, other than the prohibition on travel outside the continental United States; and (3) the no-contact condition in paragraph 7(g) of the Order.”