Don Blankenship in manifesto: ‘I am an American political prisoner’

TAFT, Calif. — Former Massey CEO Don Blankenship, serving a federal prison sentence in California for conspiracy to violate federal mine safety laws, issued a statement from behind bars on Wednesday.

Blankenship said that 250,000 copies of a booklet would be mailed out in the coming days to shed “some truthful light” on “what really happened” at the Upper Big Branch mine to cause an explosion that killed 29 miners.

Blankenship was found guilty of one misdemeanor following a trial last fall that lasted about two months in federal court in Charleston, and sentenced to a year in prison this past spring. In the letter, Blankenship claims his sentence was for political reasons.

“Politicians put me in prison for political and self-serving reasons. I am an American Political Prisoner,” the letter concludes.

Blankenship, in the letter, also criticizes lead prosecutors in his trial, former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and prosecutor Steve Ruby.

“Essentially I am in federal prison because Ruby believes that the UBB mine should have had a few more miners, and that not having those miners caused safety violations to occur,” Blankenship wrote. “Violations written by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) as “non-willful” civil violations, which Ruby says were “willful” criminal violations because more miners would have prevented many of them.”

Blankenship accused MHSA of issuing a false report following the explosion.

“I want to take this opportunity to re-emphasize that MSHA issued a false investigation report following the UBB mine explosion. They likely did so to cover-up that they had required the miners to reduce the mines airflow shortly before the explosion.”

He took a part of the letter to criticize both U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia’s governor at the time of the explosion) and President Barack Obama for jumping to conclusions before the facts could come out.

“What other convicted misdemeanor has ever been declared responsible for a mine tragedy by the President of the United States before any investigation; to have “blood on his hands” by a United States Senator before trial; and to have run a “criminal enterpriseā€ by not one, but two, United States federal prosecutors after being found not guilty of all three felony charges?,” he asked.

Oral arguments in an appeal filed by Blankenship and his legal team of his conviction will be heard later this month in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. on Oct. 26.

The full letter can be read at Don Blankenship’s website.

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