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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Upper Big Branch ex security chief convicted

A former security chief of the Upper Big Branch coal mine has been convicted of lying to investigators following the 2010 explosion that killed 29 men. He has appealed this ruling to the appeals court recently.

Hughie Elbert Stover filed his appeal with the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., just before the court-ordered deadline.

Stover, 60, was found guilty of lying to investigators and ordering a subordinate to destroy documents following the worst U.S. coal mine disaster in four decades. The mine was operated by Massey Energy, which was later bought by Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources Inc.

He was sentenced to three years behind bars — one of the stiffest punishments ever handed down in a mine safety case — but has not been ordered to report to prison.

Stover's appeal cites multiple errors by the trial court, arguing that U.S. District Judge Irene Berger wrongly allowed evidence the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration obtained through a subpoena that had been issued by state regulators. It also claims the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training overstepped its authority in issuing that subpoena.

MSHA wanted to conduct closed-door interrogations but has no legal power to subpoena witnesses on its own, Wilmoth said, so it got the state to do the work.

While I am unsure about his claims that they did not give him the right to remain silent. But that goes without saying, a US citizen has that inherent right ALL of the time when being questioned by the authorities. Perhaps there was a violation of his Miranda rights since they did not inform him that he had this right?

Witnesses testified last fall that Stover instructed mine guards to send out radio alerts whenever inspectors entered the property, which is illegal.

Massey Energy was in collusion to cover this thing up; Massey had repeatedly warned employees to keep all records while the disaster remained under investigation. Company officials told investigators of the trashed documents, which were recovered. It appears to me that there was a simple misunderstanding of how to handle the evidence which was kept in a barracks.

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