This memorial wall was erected to honor the 29 miners who died in the Upper Big Branch Mine South explosion on April 5, 2010. (MSHA photo)

Appeals Court Upholds Don Blankenship's Conviction

A 3-0 decision by a panel of judges from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied his appeal of his conviction for conspiracy to willfully violate federal mine health and safety standards.

A federal appeals court on Jan. 19 upheld the Dec. 3, 2015, conviction of Don Blankenship of conspiring to willfully violate federal mine health and safety standards, following the methane explosion that killed 29 miners inside the Upper Big Branch South mine near Whitesville, W.Va., on April 5, 2010. Blankenship is the former CEO of Massey Energy, a subsidiary of which owned the mine.

A 3-0 decision by a panel of judges from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Blankenship's appeal. Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory wrote the decision, joined by Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. and Senior Judge Andre M. Davis, which held that "reckless disregard" can constitute criminal "willfulness."

Blankenship was sentenced April 6, 2016, to a year in federal prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine. A jury in a Charleston, W.Va., federal courtroom had convicted him of conspiracy, with then-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin saying he hoped the case "will make a difference throughout the country." Blankenship was acquitted of two other charges, securities fraud and making false statements.

Alpha Natural Resources acquired the mine in June 2011 by buying Massey and announced in April 2012 that it would not reopen the mine.

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