GOP Senate hopeful convicted after mining disaster files to vacate conviction

GOP Senate hopeful convicted after mining disaster files to vacate conviction
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A Republican coal baron hoping to challenge Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinFormer coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE (D-W.Va.) in November filed a motion Tuesday to vacate his conviction for violating mining safety laws in connection with a deadly mining disaster.

In the motion, Donald Blankenship's lawyer argued that the court should vacate and set aside Blankenship's conviction for conspiring to violate mining safety standards. Blankenship served a one-year sentence on the charge, and was released in 2017.

Blankenship's lawyer claims that the prosecution team withheld information gathered against Blankenship during the trial.

Blankenship's conviction — which came after a 2010 explosion at a mine run by Blankenship's company killed 29 workers — has become a key issue in the Senate race in the coal country state. The coal baron has surged in the GOP primary, but Republicans fear that the conviction will undermine Blankenship's appeal in a general election fight against Manchin.  

According to the motion, after Blankenship's trial concluded and the state's two lead prosecution attorneys left the U.S. attorney's office, Blankenship's team received a number of memoranda, letters and interview notes in response to their discovery requests. Between 2017 and 2018, the government provided his team with 61 previously undisclosed memorandum, according to the lawyer.

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"The sheer quantity of withheld information is staggering, and its quality would have made it essential to Mr. Blankenship’s defense," Tuesday's motion read.

The motion added: "There is no lawful basis by which these materials could have been withheld."

The filed motion comes as Blankenship appears to be gaining traction ahead of the May 8 primary. He is running against Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE (R-W.Va.) and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and has so far outspent them both.