Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was sentenced today to a year in prison for his role in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 miners.
Blankenship, who was convicted on three counts for conspiring to willfully violate mandatory mine health and safety standards at the mine, was also ordered by Federal District Court Judge Judge Irene C. Berger -- the daughter of a coal miner -- to pay a $250,000 fine, the maximum penalty for the charge. He will have one year’s supervised release after his prison term.
An investigation into the deadly blast that occurred six years ago yesterday at the West Virginia mine found that basic safety measures were lacking at the facility.
During a lengthy trial, the prosecution portrayed Blankenship as a micromanager who jeopardized the lives of his workers by putting profits over safety.
“Although already fabulously wealthy by the time of the criminal conspiracy of which he stands convicted, Defendant’s greed was such that he would willfully imperil his workers’ survival to further fatten his bank accounts. What punishment can suffice for wrongdoing so monstrous?” prosecutors wrote in a court filing last month.
Blankenship has denied that he ever cut corners on safety matters. Although he expressed “sorrow” in court to the families of the victims, he said; “I am not guilty of a crime."
Blankenship’s lawyers indicated that they would appeal. Although he was acquitted of three felony counts, his conviction on the misdemeanors was the first time a high-ranking corporate executive has been found guilty of a workplace safety crime.