Ex-Massey Energy CEO Blankenship claims being a ‘political prisoner’

West Virginia coal baron Don Blankenship is serving a one-year prison sentence for conspiring to violate mine safety rules in the lead-up to a massive explosion in one of the mines run by the company he led, Massey Energy. (Image from archives)

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who is serving a one-year sentence in a US prison for violating mine safety laws, is now calling himself an “American Political Prisoner.”

In a 67-page booklet written behind bars, and with 250,000 copies to be distributed soon, the convicted coal boss said he is ready to shed “some truthful light on what really happened to cause the [Upper Big Branch Mine] explosion, and how horribly broken our American judicial system has become,” according to a statement published on his website.

Three weeks before a federal appeals court hears Don Blankenship’s challenge of his criminal conviction, he’s sending out 250,000 copies of a booklet in which he insists on his innocence.

Blankenship (66) was convicted late last year and sentenced to one year in prison last April on one misdemeanour count following a five-year investigation into the 2010 explosion at Massey’s UBB Mine. Such incident killed 29 miners and it is considered the worst US coal mining disaster in four decades. In addition to time in jail, Blankenship was fined $250,000.

“You can be sure I am fully innocent,” the ex coal baron wrote. “The real conspiracies were the government’s cover-up of the UBB truth and my prosecution.”

Former US attorney Booth Goodwin, who brought the case against Blankenship trial, is calling the booklet “more Blankenship propaganda.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, who the jailed CEO is accusing of misconduct, said in a statement issued by his office he considered “pathetic” that even now, as Blankenship sits in prison “he is unwilling to accept any responsibility for his criminal actions. He owes better to the families of those who lost their loved ones in this avoidable tragedy.”

After the fatal incident, Massey Energy was acquired by Alpha Natural Resources. In light of the latter’s bankruptcy, much of Alpha’s assets, including safety facilities built as a result of settling legal matters regarding the explosion, were transferred to Contura Energy.

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