CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A plea hearing for a longtime Massey Energy official who is cooperating in a criminal probe of the company's safety practices has been postponed.U.S. District Judge Irene Berger agreed to delay the plea hearing for David C. Hughart until Feb. 28. It had been scheduled for Wednesday.Hughart's lawyer, Michael Whitt, of Lewisburg, asked for the delay. Whitt was appointed to the case this week after Charleston lawyer Tim Carrico withdrew from the case, citing an unspecified conflict of interest.Hughart has agreed to plead guilty to two criminal charges and provide testimony about a decade-long conspiracy to defy safety laws and hide the resulting conditions from government inspectors. Hughart, 53, of Crab Orchard, could face up to six years in federal prison.
Prosecutors are investigating the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, in which 29 workers wee killed, and also looking into broader questions about safety practices at other Massey operations.