Some 24 hours after a verdict was handed down in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said he is not disappointed in the outcome. In fact, he's calling the conviction on one misdemeanor count a victory.
"You've got to remember that this guy was convicted of reprehensible conduct," Goodwin said. "He conspired to willfully violate laws that were designed to keep miners safe, laws that were written in the blood of coal miners' past."
Goodwin said there's nothing he and his office can do about the penalties--the conviction carries a possible maximum sentence of up to one year in prison-- but he believes count one was more serious than the two felony false statement counts tried in the case, calling it the "centerpiece" of the indictment.
"Ultimately, I think anyone is not excited at the prospect of going to jail for any length of time," he said, "and it is a substantial fall from the boardroom to potential incarceration."
For Goodwin, the most powerful piece of evidence in the prosecution's case was the testimony of former miners who worked underground at Upper Big Branch. Many described the conditions, some saying they walked through water up to their chest to get to a section of the mine they were told to work in, and others discussed the violations they saw being committed on a daily basis.
Despite the not guilty verdict on the two more serious felony counts of lying to investors and securities officials, Goodwin said he still believes they were appropriate charges to bring.
"We don't bring charges that we don't believe we can support at trial," Goodwin said.
As for his political future now that the trial is over, Goodwin has been rumored as a potential candidate for governor, but would only say that his job is not permanent and he will eventually have to find a new career.
"This is what I enjoy doing, I like being able to get up every morning and feel like I'm making a positive change in a place that I love," he said Friday.
"A life in public service is certainly one I want to continue and whether that requires a step into politics, I just don't know yet."