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Judge sets hearing on Blankenship case gag order

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge has scheduled a hearing for next week on an effort by The Charleston Gazette and other news outlets who challenged a gag order she issued in former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s criminal case.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger set the hearing for 10 a.m. Wednesday, in Beckley.

According to a “docket entry” in the federal court’s computer system, Berger also plans to discuss at that hearing a request by Blankenship to delay his trial, which is scheduled to start on Jan. 26.

On Nov. 13, Blankenship was charged in a grand jury indictment with conspiring to violate mine safety rules and hamper federal safety enforcement at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine, in Raleigh County, where 29 workers died in an April 2010 explosion.

Blankenship has pleaded not guilty.

The broad gag order issued by Berger the day after Blankenship was indicted restricts access to legal filings and prohibits prosecutors and defense attorneys from talking to the news media about the case…

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