Prosecutors oppose delay in Blankenship sentencing

SAM OWENS | Gazette-Mail file photo
Don Blankenship walks out of the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse in this October 2015 file photo.

Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that they oppose former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s request for a delay in the sentencing for his mine safety conspiracy conviction.

In a new court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby said that prosecutors agree that matters about restitution payments by Blankenship should be handled through a hearing separate from his sentencing hearing, which is currently scheduled for April 6. But, Ruby said, the sentencing — including matters about potential jail time and a fine — should not be delayed.

“Defendant asserts that he is prepared to proceed on that date, and the United States is, as well,” Ruby wrote. “All sentencing issues other than restitution should be resolved on that date, as scheduled.”

U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger is scheduled to sentence Blankenship after the former Massey CEO was convicted in December of conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 workers died in an April 2010 explosion.

Blankenship faces up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Lawyers in the case are currently arguing over whether Blankenship should also be forced to pay restitution to compensate crime victims for any losses. Prosecutors have indicated that Alpha Natural Resources, which bought Massey after the mine explosion, is seeking nearly $28 million in restitution to recoup money the company spent on the criminal investigation. Defense lawyers have indicated that “dozens” of other requests for restitution were sent to the U.S. Probation Office, which is preparing a report for Berger to use in Blankenship’s sentencing.

Prosecutors have also complained to Berger that Blankenship has “refused to comply with his obligations” under federal sentencing law “to submit to the probation officer a description of his financial resources, including a list of his assets.”

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at, 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.

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