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Blankenship prosecutors won key pre-trial motions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge ruled with government prosecutors on many of the pending evidentiary motions that were decided on the eve of trial in the Don Blankenship case, according to a previously confidential transcript of a closed-door court session.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger ruled for the prosecutors in many of the key questions about what evidence and argument could be presented in the trial of the former Massey CEO.

Berger granted motions from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin’s team to block the defense from arguing that federal mine safety standards were wrong. She also ruled that Blankenship cannot try to argue that his prosecution is politically motivated or present evidence about the economic importance of the coal industry.

Also, Berger denied a key defense motion to stop prosecutors from presenting evidence about Blankenship’s compensation and stock holdings.

“The evidence could be probative of motive, given the allegations contained in the indictment, and probative of the defendant’s conspiring to willfully, and I stress willfully, violate safety regulations,” the judge told lawyers during the closed-door hearing.

 Berger also denied a motion by the defense to block the prosecution from having U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration citations used as evidence in the case…

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