West Virginia coal baron guilty of misdemeanour

Don Blaneknship, former CEO of Massey Energy speaking at the Friends of America Labour Day rally in 2009 | Capture from YouTube

Members of a West Virginia jury on Thursday found former Massey Energy chief executive, Don Blankenship, guilty of conspiring to commit mine safety violations relating to a deadly 2010 coal mine explosion.

The 8-women and 4-men jury in Charleston were handed the case Tuesday afternoon after spending more than six weeks listening the 27 witnesses that gave testimony in court.

Blankenship, 65, was charged with  conspiring to break mine safety laws at Upper Big Branch Mine, and then lying to investors and federal authorities after an explosion at the mine killed 29 miners.

He was found not guilty of making false statements to federal regulators and securities fraud and Blankenship now only faces up to one year in prison on the conspiracy charge which is  a misdemeanor. He faced up to 30 years in prison if he was convicted on all charges. His attorney Bill Taylor told reporters he will appeal the Charleston Gazette reports.

The former mine boss denied any wrongdoing. His attorneys rested their case without calling a single witness arguing that prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof required to convict Blankenship on any count.