Coal Tattoo

Was Blankenship ever inside the UBB mine? (Part 2)

Mine Explosion Congress

The question of whether former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was ever inside the Upper Big Branch Mine was raised again yesterday afternoon and this morning, as the Blankenship criminal trial continued in U.S. District Court here in Charleston.

After we first raised this in a post yesterday morning, we heard more testimony on the matter from former Upper Big Branch fireboss Scott Halstead, as we reported in this Gazette-Mail story:

Halstead testified that Blankenship had visited the Upper Big Branch Mine, going on “one occasion” to the mine’s longwall section. On Tuesday, former Upper Big Branch miner Stanley “Goose” Stewart had testified that he saw Blankenship visit the longwall section of the mine. During his opening statement on Oct. 7, lead defense lawyer Bill Taylor told jurors, “You may be interested to know that Don Blankenship was never in the UBB mine.”

When cross-examining Halstead, defense lawyer James Walls tried to depict any potential visit by Blankenship as being to “a different coal mine,” because the visit Halstead had described — in 2001 or 2002 — would involved a different part of the UBB mine that was being actively mined during the indictment period (January 2008 to April 2010) and would have occurred prior to the UBB longwall machine being moved to a different Massey operation and then returned to UBB.

Still, though, Halstead said that he was assigned to a crew that was sent to “dress up” the longwall section before Blankenship arrived and, he testified:

They hung banners up and everything to welcome him.


Blankenship leaving the courthouse with his lead defense lawyer, Bill Taylor. Photo by Joel Ebert.

Then, when Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby did re-direct examination of Halstead, Halstead appeared to answer “yes” when Ruby asked him whether if someone said Blankenship had never been to UBB. But then, Halstead said, “I can’t say that we was never there. There was one occasion when I helped prepare the area for his arrival.” But Halstead said he didn’t specifically recollect Blankenship going underground.