«“At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. ...»
“At the establishment of our constitutions,
the judiciary bodies were supposed to be
the most helpless and harmless members of the
government. Experience, however, soon showed
in what way they were to become the
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THE BIG PICTURE
THE MINE AND THE EXPLOSIONWhat a MSHA Manager, a Doctor of Mining Engineering and a Safety Director Said About UBB.............................................. 30 Key Prosecution Witness Bill Ross Testifies MSHA Cut Mine Air 50%................... 31 An Expert Says Natural Gas Fueled Explosion, Not Coal Dust as MSHA Claimed......... 35 UBB “Common Sense Facts”....................................................... 39 Recapping the MSHA Co
This booklet is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do because all Americans deserve a fair trial, and not one like I had. It is right to do this booklet because coal miner safety is more important than political correctness.
Lies about accidents and improper prosecutions are serious matters, as they prevent worker safety improvements and deprive people of their basic human rights.
This booklet is about freedom of speech and the right to a fair trial.
My name is Don Blankenship. I prepared and distributed this booklet in order to reveal that our justice system is broken and how our government has not told the truth about a West Virginia coal mine explosion that it may have caused. The story is a little complex, and telling it from prison without a computer and without much documentation has not been easy. But it is a story that Americans need to know. The story is unique in that it involves a government cover up, a false prosecution, politics, a mine explosion, and that it results in an American Political Prisoner serving time in a federal prison for a misdemeanor conviction. The case has the potential to cause a major increase in the criminal liability associated with normal American executive decision making.
On April 5, 2010 there was a massive explosion at a coal mine by the name of Upper Big Branch (UBB). The mine was located in the town of Naomi in southern West Virginia. The coal mine’s parent company was Massey Energy (Massey). At the time I was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Massey. Twenty-nine miners died in the explosion and another was seriously injured.
I was indicted on November 12, 2014 and charged with conspiring to willfully violate mine safety laws, falsifying Securities and Exchange Commission filings and issuing a false press release. The charges carried a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Under the conspiracy charge, the jury was also asked to decide whether there was an intent to defraud the United States. If the jury For Videos and More Information visit www.DonBlankenship.com believed there was such an intent, it would be a felony conviction and subject to five years in prison. But if the jury concluded there was not an intent to defraud the United States, the charge would be a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $250,000 fine.
My trial began October 6, 2015 and lasted 27 days. The Jury then deliberated for two weeks before reaching a verdict. I was found not guilty of all felonies, and guilty of the misdemeanor. The government argued that none of the charges were related to the explosion, so the defense was not allowed to present any evidence as to the cause of the explosion. The trial Judge, Irene Berger, sentenced me to the full maximum: one year in prison, a $250,000 fine and oneyear probation.
I am now in the Taft Federal Correctional Institution in Taft, California.
This booklet will illuminate three truths:
• The real cause of the explosion
• The facts about my indictment and prosecution
• My long history of working to advance the safety of coal miners The explosion was triggered by natural gas, and not “propagated” by coal dust, as was cited by the federal government’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The truth that the cause was natural gas is exposed by common sense, an expert opinion, and a prosecution witness. MSHA blamed coal dust in order to shift the blame from themselves to the coal miners, and the prosecution then essentially attempted to shift the blame from the coal miners to me. The truth is that the only thing that might have prevented the explosion was more airflow, and as you will learn from this booklet, MSHA themselves forced the miners to reduce their airflow just days before the explosion.
In this booklet, I also share the truth regarding my prosecution.
The prosecutors violated numerous federal policies and ethics codes. They did everything they could to ensure my conviction, despite knowing I was innocent of the charges against me. They displayed no regard for the Constitution, ethics, or fairness. Nepotism, bias, politics, and a desire for personal gain drove their actions. Career politicians assisted the prosecutors as best they could by publicly declaring me guilty before any investigation, and then again before trial.
The contrast between the truth and the Government’s false claims and false investigation report is breathtaking. The “drama media” has simply propagated the lies the government has told without the discomfort of any independent thought.
I never conspired to violate mine safety laws and no one at my trial testified that I did. Yet today I am in prison for a first time misdemeanor. I am the only person here serving time for a misdemeanor, according to prison staff.
Follow Don on Twitter @DonBlankenship Poster Child Case The US Government's indictment of me is the "Poster Child" case of what is wrong with the American judicial system. The case was riddled with judicial misconduct.
The charges against me were a by-product of MSHA lying about what caused a coal mine explosion in West Virginia on April 5,
2010. But that lie was only the beginning.
There was misconduct by prosecutors, judges, law clerks, and the FBI, as well as President Obama, Senator Joe Manchin, and the head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
My case was overseen by a US Attorney who wanted to be Governor of West Virginia and planned to use my conviction to aid his campaign. The assistant prosecutor had a propensity for lying.
And the trial judge was so determined to help the prosecution prevail that she allowed newspaper articles to be included as criminal evidence.
The indictment included charges that a member of the prosecution said on television, were brought for "tactical” reasons -- and not because they were crimes they believed I had committed.
The lead Prosecuting Attorney's father is one of the five judges who sits on the bench in the federal district where the case was tried. This is a clear conflict of interest, and grossly violates the separation between the Executive Branch and the Judicial Branch of our government. It’s bad enough that prosecutors and judges work in the same courthouse, but its far worse when they are father and son. And there are more clear conflicts of interest. Years before my trial, one of the trial judge's law clerks had published an article saying that I was guilty and should be imprisoned.
One of the indictment charges was "conspiring to willfully commit mine safety violations," but the mine never had received a "willful” mine safety violation. All the violations were “non-willful.” MSHA refused to comply with a Federal subpoena ordering them to turn over emails regarding the UBB mine during the indictment period. No emails were provided for the timeframe before the explosion, and only a few for after the explosion. It is not believable that there are only a few emails. A former MSHA employee testified, at trial, that he and all MSHA inspectors routinely used email.
That same key prosecution witness testified that the secretary of the MSHA district ventilation specialist told him that the specialist may have destroyed documents related to the exploded mine shortly after the explosion. The FBI testified at trial that they knew of this claim but chose not to investigate it. The prosecution witness also testified that MSHA forced the mine to reduce its airflow shortly before the explosion, despite his begging them not to.
The prosecutor argued for harsher treatment of me because I used my free speech rights, and he said that "troubles" the United States. The judge agreed, and imposed unconstitutional restrictions on my freedoms pending trial. Restrictions which were justified, based on my exercise of my First Amendment rights.
Finally, despite all of this, I was acquitted of all three felony charges but convicted of a single misdemeanor charge. What happened then? I was ordered to report to prison before my appeal For Videos and More Information visit www.DonBlankenship.com could be heard. The prosecutors then went on national television and said I ran a "criminal enterprise" and was like a "drug kingpin."
The misdemeanor conviction is that I caused the violations because I did not budget enough miners to work at the mine. There is no such law.
The charge I was convicted of does not even allege that I conspired to commit any specific mine safety violations. The prosecution says that I basically committed “any violation that would increase profits.” Again, the prosecution assertion was simply that if I had budgeted more miners there would have been fewer “non-willful” violations. They say the failure to budget enough miners means that these were actually “willful” and criminal violations. No one has said how many more miners were needed, nor how many violations would have been avoided, or which specific violations would have been prevented.
I am not only innocent of the claim I conspired to commit willful violations; the government is guilty of conspiring to make up a law in order to imprison an innocent American. I am an American Political Prisoner.
You may know me as “The Dark Lord of Coal Country” if you read Rolling Stone magazine, or a man who “has blood on his hands” if you follow what West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has said. When “60 Minutes” profiled me, after I was found not guilty of all three felony charges, they quoted Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby saying that I headed a “criminal enterprise.” The former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin then described me as a “drug kingpin.” Hillary Clinton has said I “got off easy.” President Barack Obama was likely referring to me when he said about the UBB mine tragedy before any investigation, “The tragedy was triggered by a failure at the Upper Big Branch Mine – a failure first and foremost of management.” Kevin Stricklin, the Administrator of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), was likely thinking of me when he said in an email to all MSHA District 4 employees “I want all of you to know that the mine operator blew up the mine, MSHA didn’t.” Have you ever seen a United States President declare who was at fault for a tragedy before an investigation? Or the head of a government regulatory agency proclaims who caused an accident and who did not, even before beginning an investigation?
For Videos and More Information visit www.DonBlankenship.com Keep in mind as you review this material that the quotes from my critics, and my supporters, are verbatim. I have not altered their language in any way. You may want to pay particular note to who is making some of the statements. A key prosecution witness and a MSHA manager, coal miners, company presidents, and a former United States Ambassador, a doctor of mining engineering and others.
The description of the explosion comes from a person the company paid to investigate the accident. He voluntarily wrote what you will read here because, he said “I want the truth about UBB to be known.” You will want to read his credentials, as well as his explanation of the explosion.
The descriptions of how far the government has gone to prosecute me was written by my defense attorneys – but it is not mere opinion—it’s drawn almost entirely from court records and public statements by others.
How, you might ask, does my being in prison for allegedly conspiring to willfully commit mine safety violations following a coal mine explosion translate into my being a “political prisoner”?
To answer that question requires going back to 1985. That’s when I was managing a group of coal mines in a little West Virginia town called Rawl, which is just three miles from a town called Matewan. The Matewan area is famous for being the site of the Hatfield McCoy Feud.