Blakenship sentenced to one year in prison; one year of supervised release

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Don Blankenship was sentenced to one year in prison along with one year with supervised release and a $250,000 fine Wednesday.

United States district judge Irene Berger gave the maximum sentence to Blankenship for the charge he was convicted of in December.

Blankenship was guilty of breaking mine safety regulations at the Upper Big Branch mine where an explosion occurred six years ago and killed 29 miners.

Tuesday marked the anniversary of the devastating mine disaster.

The former Massey Energy CEO was denied his request to remain free on bond while he appeals his charge.

Blankenship has continued to deny all allegations of violating mine safety regulations.

The courtroom was filled with victims’ family members, some of whom planned to give statements.

Family members were told their statements weren’t relevant to the charge Blankenship was convicted of.

Statement from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin:

“This awful tragedy and this case have caused us to set precedence in West Virginia. In our state, we will not allow the prioritization of production and profits over the safety of our workers. No sentence is severe enough and no amount of time in jail time will heal the hearts of the families who have been forever devastated and I pray that this sentence brings them some closure. I will always stand behind them. Yesterday, on the sixth anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, we remembered the 29 brave miners we lost on that tragic day. We can never bring them back, but I join all West Virginians in praying this conclusion brings some peace to the families of the miners.”

Statement from U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito:

“Coal mining is a proud West Virginia tradition, but it is not without risks. The safety of our coal miners must always be paramount. I respect Judge Berger’s decision and agree that those who break mine safety laws should be punished to the full extent of the law. While the conclusion of this trial will not ease the pain felt by families who lost loved ones at Upper Big Branch six years ago, I remain hopeful that today’s sentencing can help bring some closure.”

Statement from former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin:

“While his crimes against the citizens of West Virginia deserve a more severe punishment, I am pleased that the judge sentenced Don Blankenship to the maximum one year in prison. My thoughts today turn to the families who lost their loved ones. While nothing can bring them back, I hope the families received a measure of justice as a result of the investigation. The investigation most certainly made mines and workplaces safer. This maximum sentence sends a clear, powerful message that a corrupt corporate executive cannot gamble with workers’ lives and get away with it.”

Emily Wood can be contacted at [email protected]

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