Wounds reopened as ex-coal chief gets one year in prison

69
Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 4:32 AM

They've been doing it a long time. And they'd wish the truth of what happened there to be known," Blankenship said Wednesday, drifting closer toward mentioning his theory that an act of nature, not negligence, caused the fatal explosion in his mine.

Wounds reopened as ex-coal chief gets one year in prison

Standing before a federal judge, former coal company executive Don Blankenship expressed sorrow for the families of twenty-nine men killed in his coal mine six years ago but contended that he committed no crime.

"I just wish to create the point that these men were pleased coal miners. They've been doing it a long time. And they'd wish the truth of what happened there to be known," Blankenship said Wednesday, drifting closer toward mentioning his theory that an act of nature, not negligence, caused the fatal explosion in his mine.

The judge told him to stop talking about the explosion and handed down the stiffest sentence allowed for his misdemeanor conviction: one year in prison and a $250.000 fine.

Blankenship'south words stung for the families on hand who lost loved ones in the Upper Huge Department Mine explosion, the deadliest U. S. mining catastrophe in four decades, and some of them yelled at him as he exited the courthouse into a swarm of TV cameras.

Tommy Davis, who lost three family members in the two thousand ten tragedy and worked at the mine that day himself, started talking over the reporters and lawyers.

"Hey, Don. This is Tom," his voice cracking. "It'south been six years — six years I missed my son, my brother, my nephew. How arrive you never came to apologize to me personally? How arrive you never asked to look me?"

"He ain't apologized to none of us," added Robert Atkins, whose son Jason died in the explosion.

"We buried our kid because of you... That'south all I got is a goddamn tombstone," Atkins said.

About a half-dozen law enforcement officers swarmed around Blankenship and ushered him into a van that drove him away.

One day after the sixth anniversary of the disaster, the sentencing gave families closure and reopened wounds.

A federal jury convicted Blankenship on Dec. three of a misdemeanor conspiracy to breach mine safety standards at Upper Huge Branch. The jury acquitted him of felonies that could've extended his sentence to thirty years.

The trial wasn't about what caused the explosion, and the judge made that painstakingly clear. U. S. District Judge Irene Berger also ruled that family members couldn't speak at Wednesday'south sentencing for similar reasons, saying they weren't eligible for restitution and the cause of the explosion wasn't up for debate in the case.

At Upper Huge Branch, four investigations found worn and broken cutting equipment created a spark that ignited accumulations of coal dust and methane gas. Broken and clogged water sprayers then allowed what should've been a minor flare-up to become an inferno.

Blankenship disputes those reports. He believes natural gas in the mine, and not methane gas and excess coal dust, was at the root of the explosion.

Blankenship rose from a meager, single-mother Appalachian household to become one of the wealthiest, most influential figures in the region and in the coal industry, and someone who gives back to the community, the judge noted Wednesday.

"Instead of being able to tout you as one of W Virginia'south success stories, however, we're here as a result of your portion in a risky conspiracy," Berger said.

During the trial, prosecutors called Blankenship a bullish micromanager who meddled in the smallest details of Upper Large Branch. They said Massey'south safety programs were just a facade — never backed by more money to hire extra miners or get more time on safety tasks.

Blankenship'south attorneys believe he shouldn't have gotten more than a fine and probation, and have promised to appeal. They embraced Blankenship'south image as a tough boss, but countered it by saying he demanded safety and showed commitment to his community, family and employees.

Though Blankenship received the harshest penalties possible for the conspiracy, U. S. Work Secretary Thomas Perez, prosecutors and the family members said the punishment didn't fit the crime.

"I miss my family. (Blankenship) hugged his," Davis said. "And all he gets is a year. (The judge) has done great; she gave him what she can give him. But there necessity to be stricter, more harsh penalties for people love that who keep greed and money over human life."

READ ALSO
Atlanta Hawks player sues NY City over arrest

Atlanta Hawks player sues NY City over arrest

The guard-forward had been arrested in April two thousand fifteen exterior the 1Oak nightclub in Manhattan. Prosecutors had alleged he repeatedly disobeyed officers' orders to leave the area around the club where another NBA player, Chris Copeland, had been stabbed.

81
Prep school in abuse scandal says administrator keep on leave

Prep school in abuse scandal says administrator keep on leave

St. George'south School says in a letter sent to alumni Wednesday associate head for external affairs Bob Weston was placed on leave in Jan pending the outcome of an independent investigation.

59
Official: Repairs to broken sewage pipe expected overnight

Official: Repairs to broken sewage pipe expected overnight

coli bacteria, executive said Wednesday. Robert Knecht, director of the Memphis Public Works Division, said the dept had been taking bids for a project to stabilize the area close the pipe before the 96-inch sewer line ruptured Thursday.

91
AP News in Brief at 9:04 p. m. EDT

AP News in Brief at 9:04 p. m. EDT

These are my people," he said to thunderous cheers. Dozens of police officers amassed exterior the soundstage venue on Long Island as protesters chanted "your hats are made in China" and "dump Trump."Trump supporters retaliated,...

69