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.
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…