Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship could be sentenced up to a year in prison and fined up to $250,000 for a conviction connected to the deadliest U.S. mine disaster in four decades.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in Charleston federal court.

Legal experts say just as important as the length of his sentence is whether he will stay free pending his appeal. If he heads to prison before an appellate decision, his defense attorneys say the decision may not come until after his whole sentence is served.

Blankenship was convicted Dec. 3 of a misdemeanor conspiracy to willfully violate mine safety standards at Upper Big Branch Mine. The southern West Virginia coal mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 men.