American Political Prisoner Statement from Prison

Taft, California – Don Blankenship, former Chief Executive Officer of Massey Energy Company (a coal company that experienced a mine explosion at its Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine in West Virginia on April 5, 2010), who is now serving time as the one and only misdemeanor of 2,000 inmates (according to prison staff) at Taft Correctional Facility at Taft, California issued the following statement:

“Over the next few days we will be mailing out 250,000 copies of a booklet. The booklet will shed some truthful light on what really happened to cause the UBB explosion, and how horribly broken our American judicial system has become. The entire booklet is also available on my website at donblankenship.com.

The final appeal motion for reversal of my misdemeanor conviction was filed September 6. Legal motions are always long and complex, but basically the appeals court is being asked to decide whether it is a federal crime to have a few less miners at a coal mine than Assistant United States Attorney Steve Ruby (Ruby) believes the mine should have. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia will hold a public hearing regarding my appeal on October 26.

Essentially I am in federal prison because Ruby believes that the UBB mine should have had a few more miners, and that not having those miners caused safety violations to occur. Violations written by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) as “non-willful” civil violations, which Ruby says were “willful” criminal violations because more miners would have prevented many of them. The appeals court will decide whether having less miners (how many less Ruby did not say) than Ruby thinks were needed is a federal crime.

The appeals court is aware that Ruby’s belief that more miners will prevent “non-willful” mine safety violations is belied by the facts. The Harris mine which is the most comparable mine to UBB in the United States had approximately 35 more miners and received greater than 200 violations more than UBB. Additionally, Alpha added miners to the Massey Mines near UBB after it acquired Massey, and violations increased.

I want to take this opportunity to re-emphasize that MSHA issued a false investigation report following the UBB mine explosion. They likely did so to cover-up that they had required the miners to reduce the mines airflow shortly before the explosion. Both of the government’s lead prosecution witnesses testified at my trial that MSHA required the airflow to be reduced. The explosion was a highly unusual natural gas explosion and was not propagated by coal dust as MSHA claimed. MSHA also wrongly accused the coal miners of contributing to the cause of the explosion.

Back to the appeal, again the court will decide whether then US Attorney Booth Goodwin (Goodwin) and his Assistant Steve Ruby can convert “non-willful” MSHA violations into “willful” violations six years after they were issued, and do it without a single MSHA inspector who wrote a violation even appearing at trial.

The appeals court will also decide if it was okay for Ruby to introduce 42 new exhibits on re-direct examination of a key witness, and then for the defense to be denied any re-cross of the witness on the new exhibits. They will also decide whether it is okay for federal judges to continue to define reasonable doubt as something other than reasonable doubt.

The appeals court will also decide whether Goodwin and Ruby can charge a person with breaking the law without saying what law was broken. They will decide if Ruby’s answer as to which law was broken is acceptable. His answer was that the government does not have to identify which law was broken because “they would break whatever laws needed to be broken to advance their goal of making more money.”

The court is aware that US Senator Joe Manchin declared on national television before trial, that he believed I had “blood on my hands.” President Obama proclaimed the mine tragedy was “first and foremost a failure of management” before any investigation of the explosion. Kevin Stricklin, Head Administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health, wrote “the operator blew up the mine, MSHA didn’t,” again before any investigation of the explosion.

Americans should be concerned by what a former prosecutor who worked on my case said on television. Mike Hissam basically said that Goodwin and Ruby indicted me for two of the felony charges, knowing I did not commit them, but instead for “tactical” reasons. This simply means they were willing to put me in prison for the rest of my life for crimes they knew I did not commit.

Prosecutors Goodwin and Ruby spent five and a half years investigating and trying me in a federal court of law for three felony charges. The justice system and the jury found me “not guilty” of all three felonies. They then went on national television i.e. “60 Minutes” and they said I am like a “drug kingpin” and running a “criminal enterprise.” Saying that Massey was a criminal enterprise slanders not just me, but thousands of hard working men and women in the area. It also slanders thousands more who worked as Massey’s suppliers and vendors.

What other convicted misdemeanor has ever been declared responsible for a mine tragedy by the President of the United States before any investigation; to have “blood on his hands” by a United States Senator before trial; and to have run a “criminal enterprise” by not one, but two, United States federal prosecutors after being found not guilty of all three felony charges?

Politicians put me in prison for political and self-serving reasons. I am an American Political Prisoner.”

Download the “An American Political Prisoner” Brochure here.