EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSCONSPIRACY ALLEGATIONS SURFACE
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Attorney Says Don Blankenship Did Not Conspire To Violate Mine Safety Law
Reported by: Bethany Simmons
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Also Contributing: Bob Aaron
Reported: Feb. 28, 2013 10:08 AM EST
Updated: Feb. 28, 2013 8:35 PM EST
Beckley, Raleigh County , West Virginia
The same day former Massey Energy official David Hughart pleaded guilty to federal charges, the attorney for former Massey chairman and chief executive officer Don Blankenship released a statement, saying Blankenship did not conspire with anyone or do anything illegal or improper.
Attorney William W. Taylor issued the following statement after Hughart pleaded guilty to federal charges in Raleigh County. During testimony, Hughart said he conspired with the mine superintendent, mine foreman and the company's chief executive officer to give illegal warnings of mine inspectors on company property.
In his statement, Taylor said that wasn't accurate.
"We are surprised at the reports of Mr. Hughart’s statements at the time of his guilty plea. Don Blankenship did not conspire with anybody to do anything illegal or improper. To the contrary, Don took every step to make the mines under his responsibility safer. We are not concerned about Mr. Hughart’s recollections. People often remember untrue things when they are attempting to reduce a possible prison sentence. By the way, it is not illegal to notify people in a mine that an inspector has arrived on the site and begun an inspection," Taylor said.
Meanwhile, United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts also issued a statement.
"The statement in court today by Mr. David C. Hughart that the former chief executive officer (CEO) of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, was involved in a long-term scheme to violate mine safety laws and cover it up is surprising only in that a high-level Massey employee finally told the truth," Roberts said. "Those of us who have observed Blankenship’s lawless ways over the past many years have long predicted this day would come if the facts ever came out.
"Finally there is a witness to Blankenship’s misdeeds who will step forward and tell what he knows. Hopefully, more will follow suit. If the investigation into the tragedy at the Upper Big Branch mine is to be complete, Don Blankenship’s indictment – and then conviction – is the only possible outcome.
"But for the families of the 53 people who died on Massey property during Blankenship’s reign, including the 29 at Upper Big Branch, today’s news comes too late. For far too long, he ran roughshod over mine safety and health laws, over labor laws, and over the people of central Appalachia. Those few of us who would stand up to him were often hounded with lawsuits and subjected to threats and attempted intimidation.
"Thankfully, those days are over. But the damage Don Blankenship and Massey Energy did to workers, their families and their communities will take years to overcome. I commend U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin for taking this investigation where no one else has, and look forward to the day when Don Blankenship is behind bars where he belongs."
David Hughart, former head of Massey's Green Valley Group, pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges that he conspired to warn of the arrival of federal mine inspectors and to violate mine safety laws.
Hughart faces up to six years in prison when he is sentenced June 25.
During testimony, he said he conspired with the mine superintendent, mine foreman and the company's chief executive officer to give illegal warnings of mine inspectors on company property.
Outside the courtroom, Hughart's wife and son said he was referring to Don Blankenship, Massey's former chief executive officer.
A former president of a Massey Energy subsidiary is set to enter a plea to charges resulting from an investigation by prosecutors into the 2010 explosion at another Massey operation that killed 29 men.
David Hughart was scheduled to enter a plea to two federal conspiracy charges Thursday in federal court in Beckley.
He's accused of working with unnamed co-conspirators to ensure miners at White Buck Coal Co. and other Massey-owned operations got advance warning about surprise federal inspections between 2000 and March 2010.
The hearing was rescheduled from January to give Hughart's new attorney more time to review the case.
An ex-superintendent at the Upper Big Branch mine where the blast occurred and a former Massey security chief have been sentenced to prison as part of the federal investigation.
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