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Judge delays Blankenship trial, doesn’t rule on venue change

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Don Blankenship’s legal team successfully argued to delay the start of his trial Thursday, but the federal judge handling the case still hasn’t ruled on a change of venue and refused to recuse herself from overseeing the proceedings.

This came a day after U.S. District Judge Irene Berger dismissed the former Massey Energy’s CEO claim that he’s been subjected to “selective and vindictive prosecution” by federal government lawyers.

 Berger decided Thursday to move Blankenship’s three felony count trail from April 20 to July 13, after a motion to delay was argued by his attorneys. She has not decided on whether the trial will remain in Beckley, where Blankenship’s legal team argues he’d be unable to receive a fair because the court could not seat an impartial jury.

His legal team argued that the trial should move to either Martinsburg or Baltimore. Prosecutors want the case to stay in Beckley, but Charleston or Huntington would work for them if a relocation is necessary.

Blankenship pleaded not guilty to conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards, making false statements to Security and Exchange regulators about Massey’s safety practices, and stonewalling federal mine inspectors in connection with the Upper Big Branch Mine blast that killed 29 men in March 2010. It was the deadliest U.S. mine disaster in four decades. If convicted, the 65-year-old Blankenship could face three decades in prison.

In an unsealed motion Wednesday, Blankenship’s legal team gave examples of why they believe a fair trail in Beckley is unlikely…

 

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