Blankenship on Trial

On April 5, 2010, 29 men were killed in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia.

Federal regulators say a history of unsafe practices led to the explosion and prosecutors are now trying to prove that culture at Massey Energy came from the top down, starting with former CEO Don Blankenship.

These are the stories as they are told in the courtroom, the evidence as presented by both sides and the community's reactions to the trial of Don Blankenship. 

  

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Darron Cummings / Associated Press

What were the top stories in West Virginia from 2016? We searched our archives from the past year and compiled this list of the most popular stories.

Blankenship on Trial: A Max Sentence

Apr 6, 2016
Blankenship
Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship received the maximum sentence for his misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws. His sentence- one year in prison and a $250,000 fine- was the maximum that could be order by a federal judge.

In this episode of Blankenship on Trial, host Scott Finn discuss what it was like both inside and outside the courtroom Wednesday with Ashton Marra, West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Assistant News Director, and Mike Hissam, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and partner at the Charleston law firm Bailey & Glasser.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A judge has reduced ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship's bond and dropped his travel restrictions after his conviction.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Clarke VanDervort in Beckley reduced Blankenship's $5 million bond to $1 million Monday.

Goodwin: 'We Don't Bring Charges We Can't Support'

Dec 4, 2015
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Some 24 hours after a verdict was handed down in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said he is not disappointed in the outcome. In fact, he's calling the conviction on one misdemeanor count a victory.

Blankenship on Trial: Guilty of Conspiracy

Dec 3, 2015
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jurors returned a split verdict Thursday in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship finding him guilty on a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws. 

In the final episode of the podcast "Blankenship on Trial," host Scott Finn discusses the verdict, its implications and what comes next with West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Ashton Marra and Charleston attorney and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Hissam.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Editor's Note: This is a developing story. Be sure to keep refreshing this post for the latest. For more, follow @wvpublicnews on Twitter. For more on the verdict, see this post. For other reactions from government and mining industry officials, click here.

Blankenship Trial
Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jurors have found former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship guilty of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards, a misdemeanor charge that carries up to a year of jail time. Deliberations lasted about 10 days.

Associated Press

Editor's Note: This is a developing story. Be sure to keep refreshing this post for the latest. For more, follow @wvpublicnews on Twitter. For more on the verdict, see this post. 

Blankenship on Trial: The Case Goes to the Jury

Nov 18, 2015
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jurors have begun deliberations in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Ashton Marra and Charleston attorney Mike Hissam detail the closing arguments in the case with host Beth Vorhees in this special episode of the podcast recorded as a part of West Virginia Public Broadcasting's morning news show, West Virginia Morning.

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Lead defense attorney Bill Taylor said the government has provided no solid evidence to back its claim that former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship conspired to violate federal mine safety laws and lied about his company's safety records to investors and securities officials.

"Paper is what the government has brought you," Taylor said in the first half of his closing argument Tuesday morning. "No witnesses, no proof."

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

As jurors begin to deliberate a verdict in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, all eyes in West Virginia turn to Charleston.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In his closing argument Tuesday morning, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin called former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship an "outlaw" who ran a massive criminal conspiracy at the company's Upper Big Branch mine. 

An April 2010 explosion at that mine killed 29 men and sparked a federal investigation into Massey and Blankenship himself. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Defense attorneys chose to rest their case Monday morning without calling a single witness to aid in their defense of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

In a special edition of the podcast "Blankenship on Trial," host Scott Finn discusses the surprising turn of events with reporter Ashton Marra and Charleston attorney Mike Hissam. 

Don Blankenship
Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jurors in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship will soon be asked to deliver a verdict.

At 10:10 a.m. Monday, the prosecution rested its case. In a surprising move just moments after a bench conference, the defense also rested without calling any witnesses to the stand.

AP Photo

A federal judge has granted Don Blankenship’s attorneys weekend access to recording devices that contain the tapes of phone conversations the former CEO made during his time at Massey Energy after arguing authentication issues Friday.

Blankenship’s team attempted to bring select portions of calls in as evidence under FBI Special Agent Jim Lafferty, a government witness who led the investigation into Massey after the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in 2010.

Blankenship on Trial: The Prosecution Rests. Almost.

Nov 12, 2015
Don Blankenship
Joel Ebert / The Charleston Gazette-Mail

After 31 days of presenting witness testimony and hundreds of pieces of evidence, the U.S. Attorney's Office was set to rest its case Thursday against former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. That was, until a motion from the defense to allow them to use a government witness to bring in more evidence threw the prosecution, once again, off course. 

In this week's podcast, host Scott Finn discusses that motion with West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Ashton Marra and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Hissam as well as the government's arguments surrounding a 2010 Massey Securities Exchange Commission filing and defense motions for acquittal.

Government Set to Wrap Case Against Blankenship

Nov 10, 2015
Don Blankenship
Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The U.S. Attorney's Office has called its final witness in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. FBI Special Agent Jim Lafferty took the stand Tuesday morning. 

The government guided Lafferty through a number of documents he testified he'd reviewed during the course of his investigation, including a number of daily violation reports, filings with the federal Securities Exchange Commission and examination books kept by miners at the Upper Big Branch mine. 

Blankenship Trial
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press

A former high-ranking Massey Energy official has taken the stand in the trial of former company CEO Don Blankenship.

John Poma was vice president and chief administrative officer at Massey Energy when the Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia exploded in April 2010, killing 29 men.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The sixth full week of the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has been almost exclusively focused on Bill Ross, a key witness for the prosecution.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jurors heard emotional testimony from former Massey Energy safety official Bill Ross who broke down on the stand Wednesday morning as he discussed his 2009 recommendations to improve safety at the mining company.

Ross began his second day of testimony Wednesday in the trial of ex-Massey CEO Don Blankenship.

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