Prosecution: Massey was 'Lawless Enterprise' Under Blankenship

Nov 17, 2015

In his closing argument Tuesday morning, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin called former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship an "outlaw" who ran a massive criminal conspiracy at the company's Upper Big Branch mine. 

An April 2010 explosion at that mine killed 29 men and sparked a federal investigation into Massey and Blankenship himself. 

Goodwin continued the prosecution's strategy of depicting Blankenship as a micromanager who pushed production over safety in his company's mines. 

"The defendant dictated [the conspiracy] to all and operated Massey and UBB as a lawless enterprise," Goodwin told jurors.

Using photos of Massey miners who previously testified, Goodwin recounted their stories of working in hazardous conditions underground--including chest high water accumulations--and being pushed run coal rather than keep up with safety requirements.

Quoting a memo by former Mine Safety and Health Administration ventilation specialist Bill Ross, Goodwin said miners were directed to "run, run, run" and that the company would pay the violations if miners "ran enough footage."

Goodwin also used multiple recordings Blankenship himself created of phone conversations with other Massey employees, including a call in which he called the Ross memo "worse than a Charleston Gazette article."

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws and lying to investors and securities officials following the Upper Big Branch mine explosion. If convicted, the 65-year-old Blankenship faces up to 30 years in prison.