CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The prosecution and conviction of former Massey Energy Co. CEO Don Blankenship for conspiracy to violate mine safety rules — labeled a landmark case by legal experts and mine safety advocates — came under fire Tuesday from somewhat unusual quarters: The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice, himself a controversial coal operator, with a history of not paying his federal safety fines on time.
During a campaign stop in Fayette County, Justice expressed his disappointment in the outcome of the Blankenship trial, telling WOAY-TV that he was sorry the former Massey executive was only able to be sentenced on a misdemeanor charge.
“I think we spent an ungodly amount of money within our state to probably keep Booth Goodwin in the limelight and end up with a misdemeanor charge,” Justice was reported to have said. “If that’s all we are going to end up with, why did we spend that much money to do that,” Justice said.
Later, Justice campaign spokesman Grant Herring tried to clarify, saying that Justice believes the case against Blankenship should have been brought but alleging that “millions of our federal tax dollars were used on this case, and the best Goodwin could get was a misdemeanor.”
“The bottom line: Taxpayer money was used to promote Goodwin’s political career,” Herring said in an email. “He was making a point that it should have been prosecuted better, and the families deserve better.”
Goodwin, in an interview, responded that the Justice campaign’s criticism shows that he is gaining ground in the Democratic race and that Justice is “running scared…