BECKLEY, W.Va. — A former Massey Energy official will spend the next three and a half years in federal prison for his role in skirting federal mine safety laws.
David Hughart, 54, of Crab Orchard, was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Irene Berger in Beckley Federal Court. Hughart pleaded guilty in Feb. to a pair of conspiracy charges. He impeded MSHA and illegally warned some Massey coal operations when surprise federal mine inspections were about to take place.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Judge Berger sentenced Hughart to a year more than sentencing guidelines recommended.
“She wanted to send a very clear message, not only to Mr. Hughart, through this sentence, but to an industry that’s had a practice of giving advance notice of mine inspections,” Goodwin said.
Hughart was also sentenced to three years supervised release to be served as his prison time.
Hughart was president of Massey’s Green Valley Resource Group, which ran several subsidiaries including White Buck Coal in Nicholas County.
“This is an individual who was the president of a group of mines,” Goodwin said. “Perhaps the highest ranking mine official ever sentenced in such an investigation.”
Hughart, who has cooperated with federal investigators, did not work at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine where 29 miners were killed in a 2010 explosion but his name surfaced in the ongoing federal investigation.
Hughart said back in Feb. his orders to alert mining operations of surprise inspections came from the chief executive officer of the company. He did not name former Massey president and CEO Don Blankenship by name. U.S. Attorney Goodwin said Tuesday the investigation into that statement along with other things associated with UBB continues.
“We’re going to take this investigation wherever it leads to whomever it leads,” Goodwin said.
Hughart becomes the third Massey official to be sent to prison since UBB. The security director at UBB, Hughie Stover, was sentence to three years in prison for making false statements during the federal investigation and former UBB Superintendent Gary May was sentenced to 21 months in prison for violating mine safety regulations.
Hughart is back in custody after a recent prescription drug arrest. He will not be allowed to self report to a federal prison, but will be taken there by the U.S. Marshal Service. The drug charge could also impact his classification as a federal prisoner.
Massey Energy was purchased by Alpha Natural Resources in the months after the UBB tragedy. Alpha settled for $209 million and agreed to establish a mine safety academy. The academy opened earlier this year in Boone County.