Energy & Environment

Convicted ex-coal exec appeals case to Supreme Court

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Convicted former coal CEO Don Blankenship is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the guilty verdict against him.

Blankenship was sentenced to a year in prison last year for charges stemming from the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia, which killed 29 coal miners in 2010.

While Blankenship has argued on numerous grounds that his conviction was not proper, his appeal to the nation’s highest court rests on two arguments: the trial court incorrectly let the jury convict him for a “willful” violation of the law without proving that he knew his actions were illegal, and his attorneys were improperly blocked from cross-examining a witness.

{mosads}“This case stemmed from a rush to judgment at the highest levels of the federal government,” Blankenship attorney William Taylor wrote late Thursday in a petition to the high court.

“It was permeated throughout with unchecked abuses of power by prosecutors intent on securing a conviction by any means possible in order to assign to petitioner blame for a terrible tragedy. This prosecution begs for scrutiny by this court.”

A district court in West Virginia convicted Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy Co., of conspiring to violate federal mine safety rules, stemming from a federal investigation of the Upper Big Branch explosion.

He was later sentenced to a year in prison, the maximum allowable. The Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirmed the decision earlier this year and declined to rehear the case.

He got out of federal custody this month, so any action by the Supreme Court would not affect his sentence.

Blankenship has long been politically active, and he accused people including former President Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — West Virginia’s governor at the time of the mine disaster — of conspiring against him.

He wrote to President Trump earlier this month asking him to reopen the investigation into the 2010 disaster. Blankenship has long held that natural gas leaks caused by orders from federal regulators caused the explosion, not coal dust that the company should have been able to control.

Tags Barack Obama Coal Joe Manchin

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