Coal Tattoo

New charge filed against Massey security chief

In a March 15, 2011 photo, Massey Energy Security Chief Hughie Elbert Stover, center, and his wife, left, are swamped by members of the media as they leave the Federal courthouse in Beckley after. (AP Photo/The Register-Herald, F. Brian Ferguson)

We’ve just learned that a federal grand jury has filed a new indictment against Hughie Elbert Stover, the security director for Massey Energy’s Performance Coal Co. subsidiary, which runs the Upper Big Branch Mine.

The new indictment, posted here, adds a charge alleging that Stover lied to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation team that is looking into the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.

Specifically, the indictment alleges that during an interview on Nov. 30, 2010, Stover:

… State and represented to and in the presence of representatives of the Department of Labor and MSHA that Performance had a practice and policy that forbade personnel at the Upper Big Branch Mine from giving advance notice of an inspection by prohibiting the security guards from notifying anyone at the mine site of the presence of MSHA inspectors at the Upper Big Branch Mine.

But, the indictment alleges:

These statements and representations were false …

And, it alleges that Stover:

… Had himself directed and trained security guards at Performance’s Upper Big Branch Mine to give advance notice by announcing the presence of MSHA inspectors on the mine property over the radio.

Stover had already faced charges that he lied to federal agents and tried to destroy evidence. Stover has pleaded innocent and a trial for those charges is scheduled for July 18.

The new charge is especially interesting. The previous charges were based on allegations made by FBI and MSHA agents about what Stover told them an an interview. But that interview wasn’t recorded or transcribed. The new charge involves statements Stover made to the MSHA investigation team under oath, with a court reporter taking down every word …


U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said:

The MSHA investigators probing the UBB explosion are doing vitally important work — work that promises to save many lives in the years ahead. Anyone who tries to deceive those investigators dishonors the memories of the men lost at UBB and puts every miner in America at risk. We have zero tolerance for that kind of callous, criminal behavior.