Blankenship Ordered to Appear for Arraignment, Gag Order Set

Nov 17, 2014

Credit Brianhayden1980 / wikimedia Commons

A federal Magistrate has denied former Massey CEO Don Blankenship’s request to delay arraignment proceedings.

According to court records, Magistrate Judge R. Clarke VanDervort denied Blankenship’s request to postpone his initial court appearance. VanDervort ordered Blankenship to appear in court, surrender his passport, prepare to meet and discuss his financial circumstances, and other actions to prepare for court proceedings.

The former Massey CEO  is set to be arraigned in federal court on Thursday. The former leader of what was once one of the largest coal producers in the country Massey Energy CEO, Don Blankenship was indicted by the United States Attorney’s Office on two mine safety charges, lying to the securities and exchange commission and securities fraud.

The decision to proceed this week with his arraignment comes days after the judge presiding over Blankenship’s criminal case issued a gag order for the parties involved.

Last week Federal Judge Irene Berger issued a gag order that’s basically broken down into two parts:

First, it prevents both parties involved, Blankenship and the US Attorney’s Office from speaking to the media.  That includes:

"... their counsel, other representatives or members of their staff, potential witnesses, including actual and alleged victims, investigators, family members of actual and alleged victims as well as of the Defendant, nor any court personnel shall make any statements of any nature, in any form, or release any documents to the media or any other entity regarding the facts or substance of this case."

The second part of the gag order stipulates some proceedings in the case also go unreported such as

"...any and all motions, stipulations, discovery requests, responses, supplemental requests and responses, and other relevant documents shall be filed directly with the Clerk ..." 

The court orders that access to all documents filed in said way,  "be restricted to the case participants and court personnel.“

Long time mine safety advocate, former Kentucky Mine Safety prosecutor Tony Oppegard says the order is unusually broad and seems to effectively prohibit anyone with even vague connections to the case from talking to the media.

"As an attorney I would have to assume in good faith that the judge is trying to avoid, through this gag order, poisoning the pool of potential jurors," Oppegard said.

It appears, however, that summaries of court proceedings, will be made public. Still, some media outlets are considering challenges to the gag order on constitutional grounds.