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Blankenship jury deliberating for sixth day

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson Don Blankenship and his defense team leave federal court on Monday afternoon after the jury was excused for the day. Deliberations are set to enter their sixth day this morning.
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson
Don Blankenship and his defense team leave federal court on Monday afternoon after the jury was excused for the day. Deliberations are set to enter their sixth day this morning.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Jurors in the Don Blankenship criminal case met for about 6 1/2 hours on Monday, continuing their deliberations on three felony charges against the former Massey Energy CEO. They are scheduled to return to the federal courthouse at 9 a.m. today to resume their work.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger released jurors to go home for the evening shortly before 5 p.m. on Monday.

The eight women and four men reported to the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse at about 9 a.m. Monday after having the weekend off from deliberations. Seven of them were escorted from their jury room for mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks and 10 of them were escorted from the building for lunch.

Through the end of the day Monday, jurors had deliberated for more than 26 hours over five days since the case was given to them late last Tuesday afternoon.

Blankenship, 65, faces three felony counts that carry a statutory maximum of 30 years in prison. He is charged with conspiring to violate federal mine safety and health standards and defraud the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration by obstructing MSHA inspections. While he is not charged with causing the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine, the case focuses on Upper Big Branch and the kinds of violations that investigators say led to the disaster.

 Blankenship is also is charged with making a false statement and with securities fraud in connection with a statement issued after the mine explosion that said Massey did not “condone” safety violations and that company officials “strive” to comply with all rules at all times. Prosecutors allege that Blankenship engineered the statement to try to stop the company’s stock price from plummeting after the explosion.

Berger has said that if jurors are not done with their work at the end of the day on today, she would give them Wednesday through Friday off, in addition to the weekend, for the Thanksgiving holiday…

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