Mine Blast Plea: Dust, Documents and Deaths

coal miners denied time

As the  article (via @Law360) points out, Ex-Massey Exec Gets 42 Months In Mine Blast Case this Massey mining manager pleaded to “pre-notifying” about MSHA inspections (and conspiracy pertaining thereto).  It’s interesting that, in his plea colloquy, he was was apparently careful and narrow, almost ascribing a business-culture source for the conduct:

“I’m sorry for what I’ve done — pre-notifying about mine inspections,” Hughart said at his sentencing, according to the Associated Press. “I grew up that way. I accepted it as common practice. I know better now, and I apologize.”

That kind of approach needs to be handled gingerly, though.  The larger case landscape is important for sentencing considerations (implicitly, if not explicitly):

Hughie Elbert Stover, Massey’s former security chief, was sentenced to three years in prison in February 2012, after being convicted of lying to members of the FBI and the MSHA as well as directing the destruction of security-related documents in order to stymie the investigation into the causes of the mining disaster.

In March 2012, former mine superintendent Gary May pled guilty to charges that he hid from federal investigators hazards at the Upper Big Branch mine such as excessive coal dust piles and poor air flow. The disaster killed all but two miners working in the mine, making it the worst mining accident in the U.S. since 1972.

The combination of the deaths of the miners; the document-destruction; and the false statements was overwhelming.

Here’s another take (via @WSJ):  Former Massey Coal Executive Sentenced to Prison