Mr. Don L. Blankenship
May 23, 2017
Dear Public At Large:
My attorneys will file a Supreme Court cert petition late Thursday, May 25, 2017. The petition
will argue that the trial court and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals made two errors that warrant a
remand or reversal of my case. The first error was that the trial judge gave instructions to the jury
that my failure to prevent others from violating mine safety laws meant I was committing a crime
myself. The second error was that the judge denied my attorneys any opportunity to crossexamine
a lead prosecution witness about 42 mine citation exhibits and about statements the
witness alleged were made by me.
But these legal issues pale in their importance to most Americans versus the issues that the cert
petition makes clear only in its introduction. It should be hard for Americans to believe (for
example) that an Assistant U.S. Attorney actually argued in a federal court that because my free
speech “troubles the US” my liberties should be restrained while I awaited trial. The American
public should be concerned when federal prosecutors argue and a Judge agrees that an American
who claims that the US government has issued a false investigation report on a tragedy such as
UBB should be treated differently under the law than other Americans. They should pay close
attention when a US Senator with no mining experience says before trial that he believes an
American has “blood on his hands”. We should all ask the question “why” when prior to any
investigation both the government’s head coal mine regulator and the President of the United
States make separate statements pre-determining the outcome of a tragedy investigation. One
saying “the operator blew up the mine MSHA didn’t” and the other that the “tragedy was first and
foremost a failure of management”.
When an American convicted of only a non-violent white-collar misdemeanor is incarcerated
prior to an appeal the same basic question should be asked–why? It should concern all
Americans when prosecutors say a defendant’s free speech “troubles the US” and he then
becomes the only misdemeanor at a federal prison housing more than 2000 inmates. It should get
our attention when after more than four and one half years of investigation and a two-month trial
the US government could not convict me of a felony and yet the US prosecutors rushed to “60
Minutes” to declare that I was like a “drug kingpin” running a “criminal enterprise”. These
prosecutors were not only allowed to exercise their free speech without being indicted they have
special protections under American law, making it nearly impossible to successfully pursue legal
actions against them.
The Supreme Court only agrees to hear a small percentage of cases brought to it. This case begs
to be one of those cases that the Court agrees to hear. The First Amendment right to free speech
and the American judicial system’s integrity are both at issue. The trial courts actions included
putting me under onerous terms of release and included my not being able to speak even
privately to thousands of people, sending me to prison before appeal, sending me to prison for a
misdemeanor, giving me the maximum sentence allowed under the law; issuing a gag order;
telling the jury I am guilty of a crime because I did not prevent others from committing crimes
and not allowing cross-examination of a key witness’ testimony. All of these actions would chill
most Americans from continuing to speak in a manner that “troubles the US and which should
trouble this court”.
Americans should also note that efforts to shut me up have now moved to efforts to make me
disappear. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said after I was released – “Don Blankenship needs to
disappear”. The question is again why? Is it because the government’s investigation reports on
UBB are false and that MSHA cut the airflow in half shortly before the explosion? If I said Joe
Manchin should disappear would some claim I was threatening him with harm or implying that
others should make him disappear? I think so.
Jay Rockefeller, then U.S. Senator, said prior to my trial that “a fair trial is more than he (Don)
deserves”. This is the Senator who championed my trial Judge’s appointment to be a federal
Judge. What signal did Rockefeller’s statement send to the trial Judge? Does it taint the judiciary
that the then lead US Attorney is the son of one of the five federal Judges in the same federal
district where the trial was held?
There is more that could be said but I hope this letter is enough to “trouble” all Americans.