The media will finally get a glimpse into the criminal activity of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, as a federal appeals court has decided to lift a gag order that had been in place on the court proceedings that began with a criminal indictment against Blankenship in November 2014.
The gag order prevented the court proceedings from being made public, and barred the participants in the suit from speaking to the media. But the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the order could not be sustained any longer, following a lawsuit by media outlets in the U.S.
Blankenship was indicted in November of last year on a host of charges, including conspiracy to violate mine safety and health laws, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the SEC, and securities fraud. These activities that Blankenship allegedly participated in are what led to the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion that claimed the lives of 29 miners. Blankenship retired from Massey eight months after the explosion.
The Brad Blog has more:
On November 13, 2014, just one day after the indictments against Blankenship had been handed down by a federal grand jury, [U.S. District Court Judge Irene] Berger ordered “that neither the parties, 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.”
Berger’s gag order had been issued sua sponte, meaning, on the judge’s own accord, without a specific request by either the prosecution or defendant.
While the prosecution filed no motion in response to the media petitioners’ challenge, Blankenship had objected to lifting the gag order in the case.
Lifting the order will now allow the victims of Blankenship’s criminal negligence to speak to the media, and to tell their stories about how the coal company’s conduct has destroyed their lives.
If convicted, the 64-year-old Blankenship could face up to 31 years in prison.