4th Cir. Says Ex-Coal |Exec Must Report to Jail

     (CN) – The Fourth Circuit Thursday rejected a bid by former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to remain free while he appeals his conviction on charges related to a deadly 2010 mine explosion.
     The three-judge panel did not explain the rationale for its decision. It comes on the day Blankenship is scheduled to report to a California prison to start serving his one-year sentence.
     A federal jury convicted Blankenship on Dec. 3, 2015, after a trial in which he was described as a bully and micromanager who cut corners on safety at the Upper Big Branch Mine every chance he could.
     On April 6, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger have Blankenship the maximum sentence for his conviction on a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to violate mine safety standards.
     Berger also ordered the one-time titan of the coal industry to pay a $250,000 fine, and that he be sent to jail rather than be allowed to remain free while he appeals the case.
     Coal dust at the mine ignited roughly 1,000 feet underground on April 5, 2010. The explosion killed 29 of the 31 miners who were at work at the site at the time.
     A state-funded independent investigation later found Massey Energy directly responsible for the blast.
     Federal prosecutors in Charleston had said allowing the Blankenship to continue his $1 million bail would be contrary to federal law, which allows appeals to delay jail sentences only in exceptional circumstances.
     “None of defendant’s contentions raise a substantial question likely to result in reversal,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby wrote in an April 25 court filing.
     According to federal law, defendants can remain free pending appeal if they can show their arguments on appeal raise a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial, a sentence that does not include a prison term, or a substantially reduced jail sentence.

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