Earlier this fall, we flagged the federal criminal trial of Massey Energy's former CEO Don Blankenship as an important test of corporate accountability. Blankenship was accused of skimping on mine worker safety and thereby contributing to the 29 deaths that occurred in the 2010 explosion of the Upper Big Branch mine.
Yesterday, a jury found him guilty of conspiring to violate federal safety standards but acquitted him of charges regarding false statements and securities fraud. The maximum prison sentence on the conspiracy conviction is one year. Safety and environmental advocates, though noting the mixed nature of the verdict, praised the decision as a deterrent to future wrongdoing. For instance, Public Citizen President Rob Weissman explained: "Today’s guilty verdict should send the message to coal company executives that society will no longer tolerate this trade of miners’ lives for coal and profit."