by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — After adjourning early Wednesday because a juror became ill, the eight-woman, four-man jury in Don Blankenship’s trial returned just one misdemeanor guilty verdict, clearing him of felony charges Thursday afternoon. Blankenship, former Chief Executive Officer of Massey Energy, had been on trial in federal District Court on three felony charges brought by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
While attorneys for Blankenship appeared pleased with the outcome, lead attorney Bill Taylor said his client was disappointed with the one conviction. “This case should never have been brought,” Taylor told reporters in front of the Robert C. Byrd Courthouse in Charleston, where the trial was held.
Goodwin scheduled a 1 p.m. press conference to discuss the government’s reaction to the verdict. The misdemeanor conspiracy charge carries up to one-year in prison but Judge Irene Berger tentatively scheduled a sentencing hearing for March 23, 2016. Despite prosecution objections that Blankenship should immediately be incarcerated, Berger allowed the former CEO to remain free on bond.
Taylor said scheduling the sentencing in the spring will allow Blankenship and the defense team “time to relax and enjoy the holidays. Then we’ll be ready for appealing this one verdict.”
When asked if he expected the case to be retried, Taylor said, “There is nothing to retry. The jury said not guilty on all charges except this misdemeanor. We believe that decision will ultimately be overturned.” That is when he reiterated that the case “should never have been brought.”
Watch updates as they occur on the Corridor Chronicle.
Check the Corridor Chronicle here or on the Internet for updates.