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November 23, 2014

Disgraced Former Massey Coal CEO Don Blankenship to be Tried in U. S. Federal Court

by Catherine Dees

He drove the men like mules, pushing coal production with a cavalier disregard for the safety of the workers in the Upper Big Branch mine he ruled, haranguing mine managers, supervisors and miners with his callous and calculating drive for profit over people.  Will justice be served in the hearts and minds of family members who are left still grieving for their lost loved ones?

Donald Leon Blankenship, once a mighty coal lord with Massey Energy, sat laughing quietly with his four attorneys, his deep voice audible all the way to the back row of the court.  Families who lost sons, fathers, brothers, nephews, husbands, and uncles in the worst mine disaster in 40 years filed into the U.S. District Court, Southern District of West Virginia in Beckley, WV.  Also in attendance were local activists and members of the press.  Everyone noted Blankenship in his grey suit, red tie, and ever-so-relaxed demeanor, even resting his arms, draped over the back of his chair, seemingly confidant and unconcerned about his court appearance, arraignment, and bond hearing.

Court sketch of Don Blankenship with attorney courtesy of Jessie Corlis.

Court sketch of Don Blankenship with attorney courtesy of Jessie Corlis.

He did not behave like a man charged with four federal counts. First, “Conspiracy to willfully violate mandatory mine safety and health standards” at the Upper Big Branch South Mine where 29 coal miners died in an explosion on April 5, 2010. Second alleges that Blankenship conspired to defraud the U.S.  Third and fourth allege that Blankenship made “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the government and the Security and Exchange Commission.

Court sketch of U. S. Magistrate Judge R. Clarke VanDervoot courtesy of Patrick Williams.

Court sketch of U. S. Magistrate Judge R. Clarke VanDervort courtesy of Patrick Williams.

United States Magistrate Judge R. Clarke VanDervort, however, pointedly admonished Blankenship in front of the court, saying he noted a “disdain for the supervisory role of the federal government” and further speculated how Blankenship may well continue this attitude of perceiving “this court and these proceedings with equal disdain.”

When the bond conditions were being discussed between the U.S. Attorneys and Blankenship’s legal staff, he appeared for the first time to comprehend just how restricted his life would be.  He was not allowed release on his own recognizance and had to post a $5 million cash bond – which if he violates any terms of his required court appearances will be forfeited – is ordered to stay within the direct confines of the Southern District of WV and Pike County, Kentucky;  he is allowed to travel to Washington, DC to meet with his attorneys; he is not allowed freedom of movement in the US without pre-authorization from the court and may not leave the country as he was forced to relinquish his passport to officials; he may not have firearms or animals in his possession; he is not allowed any contact with former colleagues or UBB victims, specifically told not to tamper with potential witnesses per the issued gag order.

He glanced at family members several times before the proceedings and in an unexpected moment actually approached the spectators after bond conditions were set.  Those who lost family members softly gasped, wept, and hugged each other as they absorbed the strict conditions set by the Magistrate for Blankenship’s restricted living arrangements.  Only one man, a former employee and supporter, extended his hand in friendship, although it appeared that security personnel did not allow the two to shake hands.

Climate Ground Zero will continue to report on the trial, beginning with the pre-trial hearing date of January 6 and trial which is scheduled for January 26, 2015.

 

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October 28, 2014

Back By Popular Demand …

 

These copies of Tree Spiker were sent to Canada where no one wanted them. They need a home. If you know someone who needs a good kick in the butt you should buy one for them. It’s for a good cause. Signed first edition hard cover. They just won’t print books like this anymore. At least that is what my publisher told me…

 

9781429956833_dustjacketimage  Please make check payable to:

Mike Roselle

PO Box 163

Rock Creek, WV   25174

 

 

 

 

MikeRoselleBoxOfBooks

Get yours today!

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September 25, 2014

Climate Ground Zero Goes To Trial

Mike Roselle, Climate Ground Zero Director, was arrested on Thanksgiving Day 2013 in Charleston at the WV Governor’s Mansion for delivering a jar of mountaintop removal coal blasting dust debris to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.  Roselle is charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.

At the Governor's Mansion.  Photo by Mike Cherin

At the Governor’s Mansion. Photo by Mike Cherin

The trial begins October 1st, 2014 at 1:30 pm in the Magistrate Court, Kanawha County, WV.

The Court is located at 111 Court St. in the WV Capitol of Charleston.

Background and details here: http://climategroundzero.net/2014/03/one-state-under-coal-by-jeffrey-st-clair/; http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2311593/one_state_under_coal.html;

This article was originally published on Counterpunch.