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Coal king reports to prison after appeal denied

By Allen Cone
Coal king reports to prison after appeal denied
Former Massey Energy CEO was scheduled to begin serving his one-year federal sentence Thursday in California. Photo courtesy of DonBlankenship.com.

RICHMOND, Va., May 12 (UPI) -- Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship lost his appeal Thursday to delay his one-year sentence on a conviction related to a deadly 2010 mine explosion in Charleston, W.Va.

Eight hours later, Blankenship surrendered to federal authorities at a prison near Bakersfield, Calif., said Justin Long, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

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The Taft facility has a low-security main institution and a minimum-security "satellite camp." The prison meets the bureau's general requirement of being within 500 miles of a prisoner's home, which Blankenship now lists as Las Vegas.

Earlier, three-judge panel in the Fourth Circuit did not explain its rationale for the decision.

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Blankenship's lawyers filed an emergency motion Tuesday to allow their client to remain a free man on $1 million bail while the court considers his appeal. But federal prosecutors said allowing Blankenship to remain out on bail would violate federal law allowing someone to be free while on appeal only in exceptional circumstances.

A federal jury in Charleston, W.Va., convicted Blankenship on Dec. 3, 2015, for conspiring to violate safety standards before the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 workers.

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On April 6, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger gave Blankenship the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to violate mine safety standards and ordered him to prison rather than allowing him to remain free while on appeal. He also was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.

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A federal safety inspection found that "if basic safety measures had been in place ... there would have been no loss of life at [Upper Big Branch]."

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