TAFT, CA — Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship self-reported to the Taft Federal Prison in Taft, California Thursday afternoon after a federal appeals court denied an appeal that sought to keep him out on bond pending his appeal.
Blankenship will spend up to a year in prison after he was convicted last year on a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate mine safety laws.
It will take several days to process Blankenship at the federal prison, MetroNews Legal Analyst Tom Peyton said.
“I don’t think he’ll have any contact with the outside world for at least a week once he gets in there,” Peyton said.
Blankenship’s attorneys never thought their client would end up behind bars, Peyton said.
“I think that (Bill) Taylor said he would never spend a day in prison and that’s going to be wrong now,” he said.
The decision to send the former coal boss to prison, Peyton said, probably says a lot about the chances of the conviction being overturned.
“It’s a pretty decent sign that they don’t think a whole lot of his appeal,” he said. “If they thought there was something there significant, I don’t think they would’ve ordered him incarcerated at this point.”
Blankenship remained free on bond as he awaited sentencing following his conviction last December. In early April, he was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Irene Berger to the most stringent sentence available under statute.
Blankenship was the president and CEO of Massey Energy when an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010 killed 29 miners. The investigation into the accident led to charges against Blankenship related to safety issues at the mine.
“Today we saw Don Blankenship go to federal prison where he belongs,” said former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, who prosecuted Blankenship during his trial last year, in a Thursday statement.
“It was a long road, but I am pleased to see him finally start to pay for his criminal conduct. My thoughts and prayers return the families of the brave souls lost at Upper Big Branch praying that they find some closure and peace today,” Goodwin said.
Political consultant Greg Thomas said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline” he believes Blankenship will “do as well as one possibly can” in prison. He said this isn’t the last time West Virginians will hear of Don Blankenship.
“There’s a lot of steps left to this (case) and I just don’t believe this story is over, but it will be determined I suppose,” he said.
Meanwhile, Blankenship’s appeal continues. The first legal briefs are scheduled to be filed at the end of the month.