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Judge rejects Alpha restitution from Blankenship

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge on Monday rejected a request from Alpha Natural Resources that former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship be forced to pay Alpha nearly $28 million in criminal restitution as part of Blankenship’s sentence for conspiring to violate mandatory mine safety and health standards.

U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger ruled that Alpha was not a “victim” of Blankenship’s crime for purposes of federal victim rights’ or restitution laws.

The ruling, two days before Blankenship is scheduled to be sentenced, was a significant victory for him, and could assure that the financial hit for Blankenship from his criminal conviction will be no more than $250,000 — the maximum fine Berger is permitted to order him to pay.

Alpha had sought the restitution to recoup its expenses in cooperating with federal investigators by, among other things, paying for defense lawyers for one-time Massey officials who helped government agents or testified against Blankenship.

But the judge noted that the conspiracy Blankenship was convicted of took place from Jan. 1, 2008, through April 9, 2010, while Alpha did not buy Massey until June 2011 and did not reach its agreement to assist in the federal criminal probe until December 2011…

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