Ashton Marra Published

Blankenship Sentencing Will Not Bring Closure to All Victims' Families


On Wednesday morning, a federal judge will decide whether former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship will serve prison time or face a monetary fine after being convicted of a misdemeanor. 

Blankenship was found guilty of conspiring to willfully violate federal mine safety laws in December, but one miner’s family says even the prison time will not bring complete closure.

“There is no victory in him going to prison because that’s not going to bring these men back,” said Shirley Whitt, the sister of 53-year-old UBB miner Howard “Boone” Payne. “But if the laws change and he is used as an example–this is just the beginning–that’s the victory.” 

Whitt and her sister, Sherry Keeney Depoy, will still ask District Judge Irene Berger to give Blankenship the maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $250,000 at his hearing Wednesday. 

The sentencing comes just a day after victims’ family members, including Whitt and Depoy, visited the Upper Big Branch Miners’ Memorial in Whitesville to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the mining accident.

The sisters shared their reflections on the anniversary and the more than two month trial of which they attended every day.

“It was hard,” Depoy said of the experience. “It seemed easy listening to the prosecutor, but when the defense got up, it was hard, but I’m glad we did it because we did it for those 29 men.”