Which is Worse? A Drug Dealer or Don Blankenship?

From the government’s sentencing memorandum for Donald L. Blankenship:

“Which is worse: a poor, uneducated young man who sells drugs because he sees no other opportunity, or a multimillionaire executive, at the pinnacle of his power, who decides to subject his workers to a daily game of Russian roulette? Which is worse: that young man carrying a gun during a single drug deal—a crime that will earn him a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence—or a CEO jeopardizing the lives of hundreds, day after day? Which is worse: stealing money or trampling on laws that protect human life?

“In each case, to ask the question is to answer it. Under any fair assessment, only a sentence of many years in prison could truly reflect the seriousness of [Blankenship]’s crime and provide just punishment, which the law requires the court to do.”

In a juxtaposition, a letter to the court supporting Don Blankenship:

“I saw multiple times where Don would see a need and just quietly fill it behind the scene anonymously or remaining very low key. All these huge public improvements didn’t come with a big banner flying overhead that said, “Donated by Don Blankenship and/or Massey Energy;” that’s not how he has chosen to operate through the years. Many people using these parks, community buildings, like the Delbarton Opry House, don’t even know where much of the funding and/or materials came from. (Lisa Crum).”

In Memory Of the Miners of UBB

In Memory of the Upper Big Branch miners who died on this day in April 2010, for nothing less than greed, negligence, and indifference to human life. Management did not care about their health or suffering. I don’t care what some people think. I have been writing about this subject long enough to know that this explosion was preventable. Most of the miners had black lung — a completely preventable disease. The men felt trapped into working there because of the illegal employment agreements that prevented them from getting jobs in a 90-mile radius if they quit or were fired. The equipment would break down so they could not safety do their jobs. There will never be peace for their families.

To those injured and survived, Timothy Blake, and James Woods, I hope that you will feel some sort of justice tomorrow.

On this day, I dedicate this page to these men who died at UBB:
1. Carl Acord, 52, roof bolter operator, 33 years mining experience, 44 weeks at this mine
2. Jason Atkins, 25, roof bolter operator, mining experience unavailable, 44 weeks at mine
3. Christopher Bell, Sr., longwall utility, 36 weeks mining experience, 8 weeks at mine
4. Gregory Brock, 47, electrician, 5 years mining experience, 5 years at mine
5. Kenneth Chapman, 53, roof bolter operator, 28 years mining experience, 24 weeks at mine
6. Robert Clark, 41, continuous miner operator, 11 years mining experience, 44 weeks at mine
7. Charles Davis, 51, longwall foreman, 32 years mining experience, 8 years at mine
8. Cory Davis, 20, underground apprentice, 20 weeks mining experience, 8 weeks at mine
9. Michael Elswick, 47, beltman/fireboss, mining experience unavailable, experience at mine unavailable
10. William Griffith, 54, continuous miner operator, 36 years mining experience, 16 years 32 weeks at mine
11. Steven Harrah, 40, assistant mine foreman, 9 years mining experience, 1 year 4 weeks at mine
12. Edward Jones, 50, assistant mine foreman, mining experience unavailable
13. Richard Lane, 45, longwall foreman, 8 years mining experience, 36 weeks at mine
14. William Lynch, 59, shuttle car operator, 34 years mining experience, 44 weeks at mine
15. Joe Marcum, 57, continuous mine operator, 32 years mining experience, 16 years at mine
16. Ronald Maynor, 31, scoop operator, 3 years 24 weeks mining experience, 3 years at mine
17. Nicholas McCrosky, 26, electrician, 3 years mining experience, 1 year 24 weeks at mine
18. James Mooney, 51, shuttle car operator, 32 years 24 weeks mining experience, 10 years at mine
19. Adam Morgan, 21, underground apprentice, 8 weeks mining experience, 8 weeks at mine
20. Rex Mullins, 50, headgate operator, 20 years mining experience, 6 years 40 weeks at mine
21. Joshua Napper, 26, underground apprentice, employee of independent contractor David Stanley Consultants LLC, 8 weeks mining experience, 8 weeks at mine
22. Howard Payne, Jr., 53, roof bolter operator, 12 years mining experience, 11 years at mine
23. Dillard Persinger, 32, shield operator, 2 years mining experience, 2 years at mine
24. Joel Price, 55, shearer operator, 35 years mining experience, 2 years 24 weeks at mine
25. Gary Quarles, 33, shearer operator, 14 years mining experience, 12 years 24 weeks at mine
26. Deward Scott, 58, shuttle car operator, 38 years mining experience, 44 weeks at mine
27. Grover Skeens, 57, maintenance foreman, 33 years mining experience, 14 years at mine
28. Benny Willingham, 61, roof bolter operator, 34 years mining experience, 44 weeks at mine
29. Ricky Workman, 50, shuttle car operator, 9 years mining experience, 8 years at mine

Judge Berger: Alpha’s Not A Victim

Alpha Natural Resources is not a “victim” entitled to restitution in the criminal case against former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger ruled today. In fact, Alpha calculated the potential losses based on the known criminal proceedings at the time of the sale, and made an informed business decision when it purchased Massey Energy after the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that killed 29 miners.

Alpha sought $13,472,200.21 in restitution from Blankenship. Specifically Alpha sought $4,310,671.21 for participation in the investigation and prosecution of the case; $4,310,671.21 for indemnification of former Massey employees who cooperated as witnesses in the case; and, $10,004,935 for the payment of the violations at the UBB mine.

In her decision denying Alpha’s claim for restitution, Judge Berger noted “that Alpha acquired Massey over one year after the UBB explosion or the end of the indictment period; calculated a value for Massey which incorporated potential losses arising from the criminal investigation; voluntarily agreed to cooperate with the U.S. in order to reduce the potential for criminal and/or civil penalties arising from Massey’s conduct; entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. as the result of the company’s cooperation; agreed to pay the fines for violations at UBB, and produce the documents that were introduced by the U.S. at the trial; and, agreed to indemnify the legal expenses of former Massey employees who testified for the U.S. in the case.”

“Each of these decisions resulted in significant financial costs… each of the decisions that resulted in Alpha’s claimed losses were made after the conclusion of the conspiracy for which [Blankenship] was convicted in this case….

“At the end of the indictment period, Alpha had incurred none of the expenses for which it claimed restitution…. Alpha incurred its now claimed financial ‘injury’ at least a year later, and only after it voluntarily acquired Massey and voluntarily entered into the non-prosecution agreement with the Government. Thus, Alpha is not a ‘victim” as defined by the Victim and Witness Protection Act,” Judge Berger wrote.

Blankenship’s sentencing is on Wednesday.