Federal judge pushes back Don Blankenship trial to July 13

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger on April 9 agreed to push back the criminal trial of former Massey Energy head Don Blankenship from April 20, to a new start date of July 13.

That delay came due to a request by Blankenship’s attorneys for more time to examine two new witnesses that the U.S. Attorney plans to put on the stand at the trial. This case is being handled in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The U.S. Attorney’s office has secured the indictment of Blankenship over charges that he ran a legally deficient mine safety program, leading to the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in 2010 that killed 29 miners in southern West Virginia. Blankenship, a staunch Republican, has denied the allegations and claims they are politically motivated.

Blankenship, once one of the most prominent figures in the U.S. coal industry, retired from Massey in late 2010, with Massey then in 2011 being bought by Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR). Massey for many years was the largest coal producer in Central Appalachia, which includes southern West Virginia.

Judge Berger on April 8 had denied a series of motions by Blankenship’s attorneys, including:

  • a motion to disqualify from handling this case every judge in the Southern District of West Virginia, including Berger;
  • a motion to dismiss due to “selective and vindictive” prosecution; and
  • motions to dismiss various counts of the indictment for various alleged deficiencies.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.