Blankenship receives sentence that doesn’t add up to his crimes


F. Brian ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP

Clay Mullins, left, who lost his brother Rex Mullins in the Upper Big Branch explosion, reads the statement that he was not allowed to read during the sentencing of former Massey CEO Don Blankenship as Gary Quarles, right, who lost his son, takes in the emotion of the day Wednesday, April 6, 2016 in Charleston, W.Va. Blankenship was sentenced to a year in jail and a $250,000 fine for his role in the fatal 2010 blast.

Six years and one day after 29 miners lost their lives in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, former Massey CEO Don Blankenship left the courthouse with the maximum sentence of one year in prison, one year of supervised release and the maximum $250,000 fine.

Family members of the miners see this as a measly comparison to the years of life their loved ones lost due to negligent mine safety practices.

Following the explosion, investigators found Massey Energy at fault for failing to maintain the ventilation system in the mine, which led to an accumulation of methane.

Blankenship was originally on trial for three felony charges that, if he had been sentenced for them, could have resulted in a 30-year prison sentence. However, Blankenship’s felonies were exonerated, leading to the official charge of a single misdemeanor for which he was given maximum charges.

A misdemeanor charge for millions of dollars in property and equipment damage and the loss of 29 lives due to dishonesty and negligence does not add up.

What’s worse is Blankenship plans to appeal, meaning he will likely not serve one day behind bars.

This whole incident is the result of corporate greed. The coal mining industry is the only thing keeping many parts of the state afloat, but not without cutting corners wherever companies can to save money and put more into the pockets of its owners and CEOs.

Normally, this kind of behavior is common practice in West Virginia as the state is exploited for its resources time and time again by outside companies that come into the state promising to bring desperately-needed jobs and income, but leaving the land and economy in worse shape than before.

However, Blankenship is one of our own.

“You should be someone that we are able to tout as a West Virginia success story. Instead of being able to tout you, we are here,” Judge Irene Berger said to Blankenship during court proceedings as he was making statements attempting to apologize to the miners’ families.