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UBB Families Left With Mixed Emotions Following Blankenship Verdict

Kara Lofton
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Judy Jones Peterson lost her brother in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion. After the verdict Thursday, Peterson said she felt satisfied with the outcome.

Editor's Note: This is a developing story. Be sure to keep refreshing this post for the latest. For more, follow @wvpublicnews on Twitter. For more on the verdict, see this post. For other reactions from government and mining industry officials, click here.

Family members of victims in a deadly mine explosion expressed mixed emotions to the verdict in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

Blankenship was found guilty Thursday on a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards, but was acquitted on felony charges related to making false statements. The 65-year old Blankenship faces up to a year in prison. 

The charges in the case stemmed from the explosion at Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, in April 2010.

Judy Jones Peterson lost her brother, Edward Dean Jones, in the blast.

While making a statement following the verdict, Peterson spoke about the various players in the two-month trial, including prosecutors, witnesses and Blankenship himself.

“I know history will link his name forever to what happen in that mine. And that’s the loss of 29 innocent souls out his greed. His pure greed,” said Peterson, who fought back tears at moments while speaking with members of the media.

Peterson’s comments echoed other victims’ family members, who were relieved to see a verdict, but disappointed in not seeing him found guilty on all three charges.

Sherry Keeny Depoy also lost her brother at Upper Big Branch.

Depoy said she was happy to receive a guilty verdict on the conspiracy charge, but was disappointed that the jury delivered a not-guilty verdict on the two counts related to making false statements to investors and federal securities officials.

A guilty verdict on all three counts would have held a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. 

“I just don’t think they put as much into this as they should have,” Depoy said of the jury. 

Families members of those who lost their lives in the explosion expressed thanks to the prosecutors in the case, including U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby. 

Blankenship’s sentencing is scheduled for March 23. 

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