William Taylor, a lawyer for Blankenship, said his client has done nothing wrong and downplayed the significance of what Hughart said.
“We were quite surprised at the reports of Mr. Hughart’s statements at the time of his guilty plea,” Taylor said. “Don Blankenship did not conspire with anybody to do anything illegal or improper. To the contrary, he did everything he could to make Massey’s mines safe.
“We’re not concerned particularly about the story concerning Mr. Hughart,” Taylor said. “It’s not surprising that people say untrue things when they are trying to reduce a possible prison sentence.”
Well, yesterday Blankenship added to what his lawyer had to say. The former Massey CEO has a new post on his “American Competitionist” website and blog. It’s headlined MSHA Carries Out Obama/Roberts Agenda. At the end, Blankenship has this to say about U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin’s ongoing criminal investigation of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster and Massey:
If they put me behind bars … it will be political.
And he concludes with this comment about Hughart:
As for Dave Hughart who Cecil cites as a witness and who says I conspired with him to notify miners that inspectors were on mine property – Dave was fired by Massey prior to the UBB explosion for drug use and theft- i.e. basically what he was arrested for. He is expecting to get a reduced sentence for his plea. Maybe he will, but he is not telling the truth about me.
We’ve reported before about Hughart’s record, citing internal company records made public and filed in court that show he was, in fact, fired a few weeks before the Upper Big Branch Mine blew up on April 5, 2010 (Hughart actually didn’t work at UBB, but at other Massey operations):
Internal Massey documents, made public as part of lawsuits against the company, show that Hughart was fired on March 19, 2010.
Hughart had failed a random drug test and “seemed to be having financial difficulty,” according to the documents, which were unsealed by a court action brought by The Charleston Gazette and NPR News. Massey auditors alleged that Hughart hired his son, promoted him to an $89,000-a-year job, and gave him a company truck to drive. The audit report, filed in Kanawha Circuit Court, also alleged that Hughart received $150,000 in kickbacks between May 2008 and March 2010, by having a Massey contract firm fake invoices for work that was never performed.
Now, if you’re wondering what got Blankenship thinking about all of this, he seems to offer two reasons.
Cecil Roberts, in the March/April addition of the UMWA Journal, said “I commend U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin for taking this investigation where no one else has, and look forward to the day when Don Blankenship is behind bars; where he belongs.” Cecil has never been reluctant to say outrageous things or to lie about me, as he can’t get over his failure in the strike of 1985. In this case, I hope people will see his obvious effort to influence prosecutors for what it is.