US prosecutors want max of 1 year in prison for ex-Massey Energy CEO

U.S. prosecutors are urging a judge to give convicted ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship the maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $250,000 fine, for its participation in a 2010 West Virginia coal mine explosion that killed 29 men.

In an 11-page court filing Monday evening, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby said that “only a sentence of many years in prison could truly reflect the seriousness” of Blankenship’s crime and provide “just punishment.”

The former mine executive was convicted of conspiracy in December, originally facing a sentence of up to 30 years in jail.

He also noted that federal laws state that willfully violating mine safety and health standards “is worth, at most, a year in prison.”

The former mine executive was convicted of conspiracy in December, originally facing a sentence of up to 30 years in jail. However the penalty was reduced after he was found not guilty on counts of securities fraud and making false statements.

But Blankenship's attorneys say he shouldn't receive more than probation and a fine. The former CEO denied any wrongdoing, and his legal team has restated their intention to appeal as they believe prosecutors unfairly sought to portray their client as some kind of a monster who cold-heartedly sent miners to their deaths by denying requests to equip the mines with necessary safety gear., and then lied to authorities about it.

Sentencing for the man once known as West Virginia's “King of Coal,” is slated for April 6, which marks the sixth anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster. Prosecutors are also trying to force Blankenship to pay $28 million in restitution to Alpha Natural Resources, a now-bankrupt coal company that bought Massey in 2011. The money would cover legal fees, investigative expenses and fines incurred by Alpha.

The closely watched case has been one of the most high-profile cases in West Virginia in decades, and the explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine is considered the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in almost 40 years.