Talking Points Memo reports that coal boss Donald Blankenship is finally going to trial after 29 miners died in an explosion four years ago. He was indicted last month in an extraordinary decision; the Times notes that no other corporate head has ever been indicted after deaths at their mines.
As we reported the other week, Blankenship was indicted for conspiracy to violate regulations that would have prevented the explosion and death of his workers. TPM explained he “came to typify all the worst caricatures of ruthless industrialists. He broke unions. He dismissed federal regulations and dared inspectors to catch him in the act. He described his industry in evolutionary terms.”
Prosecutors say that the violations include poor air flow, inadequate number of safety workers, and a culture of corruption that would warn guards when inspectors were coming in order to cover up violations. The prosecutors say that Blankenship was fully aware of each of these details and schemes.
Phil Smith of the United Mine Workers of America emphasized the importance of this decision, saying, “Finally, finally, the head of a company that has willfully violated working safety laws has been called to account.”
Blankenship has pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, he could spend up to 31 years in prison.