David Hughart, seen here before his Feb. plea hearing, was sentenced Tuesday to 42 months in federal prison.
Photo courtesy WVVA-TV
David Hughart, seen here before his Feb. plea hearing, was sentenced Tuesday to 42 months in federal prison.

Convicted former Massey Energy official David Hughart said in federal court Thursday the company’s practice to warn personnel when mine inspectors arrived at a mining site came from the top of the company.

When U.S. District Judge Irene Berger asked Hughart to be more specific he said, “The chief executive officer.”

Hughart did not mention former Massey CEO Don Blankenship by name. Blankenship’s attorney has issued a statement denying any wrongdoing saying they were not concerned about Hughart’s recollections.

Hughart, 53, from Crab Orchard pleaded guilty to two federal charges.  He is the highest ranking Massey official to be charged as part of an ongoing investigation focused on Massey’s safety practices.

The investigation started with the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, a massive coal dust explosion that claimed the lives of 29 coal miners in Raleigh County.

Hughart did not directly oversee operations at UBB.

Hughart’s wife Karen Hughart says covering up was a common practice at Massey and her husband was threatened if he didn’t go along.

‘He’s a man of integrity and dignity and he was threatened numerous times to lose his job if he didn’t answer correctly,” she said after Thursday’s hearing.

David Hughart is a former president of Massey’s Green Valley Resource Group in Nicholas County.

He has admitted that, when he was in charge, he and other Massey workers violated health and safety laws and hid those violations by warning mine workers when inspectors with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration arrived on site.

“Mine safety and health laws are not optional,” Booth Goodwin, the U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District, said in a statement on Thursday.

“This prosecution reiterates the message that mine safety violations are very serious crimes.”

Hughart faces up to six years in prison and a $350,000 fine when he’s sentenced on June 25th.

Goodwin says Hughart may be the most senior executive ever convicted of conspiracy to impede MSHA or conspiracy to violate mine health and safety standards.

Alpha Natural Resources acquired Massey Energy’s operations in 2011, more than a year after the UBB Disaster.

Former UBB Mine Superintendent Gary May and the former head of security at the mine, Hughie Elbert Stover, have both been convicted of charges stemming from the disaster.  A former UBB worker, Thomas Harrah, has also pleaded guilty to lying about being a foreman when he acted as one at UBB.

 

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Comments

  • John weaver

    My thoughts and prayers everyday go out to every coal miner and their families who risk their lives in order to make a living. Justice is necessary in making sure the safety process is not corrupted and I hope the guilty are forced to face the consequences of their actions, Don Blankenship included whose dismal record of placing money over peoples' lives is shameful.

    • Shadow

      The sad part of the UBB disaster was that some of the found problems were perpetrated by the lowest levels of the workforce. Too often, people consider Safety as an office or a person who occasionally comes around but it is a practice that is Everyone's job to monitor and obey.

  • John

    Very well said Shadow. I agree. Government shoves their nose into everyone's business and look how well they are doing with their own.

  • Shadow

    The mine is private property, it is not owned by the government, and under the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment, there are no random searches. It requires a warrant signed by a judge to search a property. If they don't have a warrant, they should not be let in without the authority of the management. While the amendment specifies "people", general practice has been to so only if a crime has been committed. I do not see how it can be a crime for the management to know when there are visitors coming into the property. While good intended, it is a bad law. If they can do this to a company, they can do it to you just by assuming you are committing a crime. No one should come on to private property without being accompanied.

  • coal miner

    Integrity and dignity !! What a joke.. It's all about the MONEY !! Hope he gets a hefty prison sentence. Totally agree with Scott on this one!!

  • west virginian

    Meanwhile Blankenship is sun bathing in Morroco with a supreme court judge.

  • Scott

    Integrity and dignity. What a laugh that is. How can one have those two things but yet take orders that eventually sent men to their deaths. He is and was a puppet, and to me he should be held on murder charges . Integrity and dignity is for people who do the right thing and live the right way, not this joker. Integrity and dignity- HA HA HA

  • mdk

    All the pointing figures should go to the co. But what about the inspectors in the mine that day did anything come about with them.

  • ShinnstonGuy

    If he had "integrity and dignity" why didn't he find a job with another coal company? I imagine Blankenship was heavily involved but don't make these victim statements. Provide proof and let Don go up the river.