CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Prosecutors are urging a federal appeals court not to allow former coal company executive Don Blankenship to remain free next month while the court considers his appeal.
Government lawyers said allowing the 66-year-old ex-Massey Energy CEO to continue his $1 million bail would be contrary to federal law, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported (http://bit.ly/1Uh7VX4). They say the law allows appeals to delay jail sentences only in "exceptional circumstances." Blankenship is scheduled to report to prison May 12.
"None of defendant's contentions raise a substantial question likely to result in reversal," Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby wrote in a filing submitted Monday night to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Blankenship was sentenced April 6 to a year in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine for conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards at Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. A jury convicted him Dec. 3.
The coal mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 men.
Blankenship's attorneys say he could serve much, or all, of his sentence before the appellate court reaches a decision.
In the prosecution's filing, Ruby said the amount of time Blankenship serves in prison while his appeal is pending is not a relevant consideration.
"It makes no difference whether his sentence is a year or 40 years — the sentence cannot be stayed," Ruby wrote.
According to federal law, defendants can remain free pending appeal if they can show their arguments on appeal raise a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial, a sentence that does not include a prison term, or a substantially reduced jail sentence.
On Monday, the 4th Circuit issued an order setting May 31 as the deadline for both sides to file their initial briefs on the appeal of Blankenship's conviction.
Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.