More than four years after an underground explosion killed 29 mine workers, a federal grand jury Thursday indicted the top executive of the West Virginia coal company that ran the mine, charging him with fraud and conspiracy to violate safety laws.Of course, it's 2014, which means that the more wealthy, powerful, and connected you are, the less likely you are ever to pay for your crimes, no matter how ugly they are.
Don Blankenship, who was CEO of Massey Energy, becomes the highest-ranking executive to face charges in the deadly blast at the Upper Big Branch Mine, the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years.
Blankenship is charged with conspiring to commit and cause willful violations of federal mine safety and health standards at the mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia.
Federal prosecutors allege that Blankenship also conspired to hinder and impede federal mine safety inspections to conceal safety violations that were committed routinely at the mine.
He also is charged with making false statements about the company's safety practices to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the aftermath of the April 5, 2010 blast, and with securities fraud involving shares of Massey Energy.
According to the indictment, Blankenship knew there were hundreds of safety violations at the mine every year and could have stopped them: "Yet he fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated'' routine safety violations "in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws, and make more money."
Several people I know have suggested a proper disposition for this fellow's fate, all along similar lines. In one variation or another, it involves him getting the Rod Serling treatment.