December 04, 2015

Sen. Manchin After Blankenship Verdict: Safety Was Not Coal Boss' Priority | WV Metro News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The split verdict that convicted former Massey Energy boss Don Blankenship of conspiracy garnered national attention.

On Capitol Hill, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin was notified of the jury’s decision Thursday while he was on the congressional floor.

“My first reaction is I’m hoping some families get some closure. I know they were looking for closure. They need closure. I’m hoping some were able to receive that,” Manchin said on MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval.

The misdemeanor charge is tied to operations at Upper Big Branch Mine prior to the 2010 explosion that killed 29 coal miners.

“We cannot have a pervasive mentality from leadership down from any mining, manufacturing, any type of job we have in West Virginia or in America where safety is not first,” added the senator.

The jury found Blankenship not guilty on 2 fraud charges. The conspiracy charge carries a possible jail sentence of up to a year.

Manchin hinted that he thinks there was more criminal behavior in the case than the verdict reflected.

“I just believe there was pervasiveness where profit and production was before safety,” Manchin maintained. “I truly believe that.”

Family members of some of the miners who died had mixed feelings following the verdict that came more than 8 days after deliberations began.

While some feel they can try to move forward with some justice served, others stated Blankenship should have been convicted of the counts accusing him
of making false statements about Massey safety to federal authorities and investors.

Blankenship’s attorneys said they will appeal the decision. U.S. District Judge Irene Berger set a tentative sentencing date for March.