Coal Tattoo

Prosecutors hope to wrap up case early next week


Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and his lawyers leave the federal courthouse on Wednesday. Photo by Ken Ward Jr.

After jurors left the courtroom for the day this afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby told U.S. District Judge Irene Berger that government prosecutors hope to finish presenting their case against former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship sometime early next week.

Today’s court session was short, with Berger not starting trial until 1:30 p.m. so that she could handle some matters in another case. For those who have asked, the judge did not call off court for President Obama’s visit to Charleston — and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin did not skip the trial for a day to attend the president’s discussion about West Virginia’s drug abuse problems.

The afternoon session continued today with prosecutors questioning former Upper Big Branch Mine fireboss Scott Halstead, who testified about the hazards he found doing safety examinations of the mine for Massey, as required by federal law. Ruby had Halstead explain to jurors both the sheets of his fireboss book which listed those hazards — frequently buildups of explosive coal dust — and how the page of the fireboss book that was supposed to list what steps had been taken to fix those hazards usually being empty.

Court continues at 9 a.m. tomorrow with cross-examination of Halstead by the defense.