CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former Massey Energy Co. CEO Don Blankenship, who rose from humble beginnings in Mingo County to become the wealthy and powerful chief executive of one of the region’s largest coal producers, will serve one year in prison and pay a $250,000 fine for a mine safety criminal conspiracy, a judge decided Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Irene Berger sentenced Blankenship to the maximum penalty allowed for his conviction for conspiring to violate federal safety and health laws at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 workers died in an April 2010 explosion.
Berger also ordered Blankenship to serve one year of supervised release, sentencing him during a hearing held six years and one day after the mine blast that prompted an aggressive federal investigation that laid bare long-standing complaints about Massey’s business and safety practices under Blankenship’s micromanaging leadership.
“The crime is serious,” Berger told Blankenship, a packed courtroom and a full overflow room equipped with a video feed. “By putting profitability of the company ahead of the safety of your employees, you, Mr. Blankenship, created a culture of noncompliance…