UPDATE: Ex-Massey official gets 42 months behind bars
BECKLEY (WVVA) - A former Massey executive who admitted to illegally warning miners of looming surprise inspections will spend the next three-and-a-half years in jail.
U.S. District Judge Irene Berger has sentenced David Hughart to 42 months in prison plus four years supervised release for conspiring to give miners at Massey's White Buck mine illegal advance warning about surprise inspections.
Hughart was president at the mine when the illegal activity took place.
Earlier in the day in Magistrate Court, Hughart had his bond revoked in the wake of a drug arrest in Beckley on Aug. 30.
Hughart was caught driving under the influence and tested positive for oxycodone.
Following is the full release from U.S. District Attorney Booth Goodwin on the federal sentencing:
BECKLEY, W.Va. – United States Attorney Booth Goodwin today announced that a longtime Massey Energy Company executive was sentenced to 42 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release for two federal crimes in connection with an ongoing investigation of practices at Massey. David Hughart, 54, of Crab Orchard, West Virginia, is the former president of Massey's Green Valley Resource Group and the highest-ranking official to be convicted in the ongoing federal investigation. Hughart's sentence is one year above the top of federal advisory guidelines range. Hughart previously pleaded guilty in February to two federal charges: conspiracy to impede the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and conspiracy to violate mine health and safety laws.
"Mine safety laws exist to protect the health and safety of coal miners. When those laws are broken, miners' lives are put in danger. That's absolutely intolerable," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. "This prosecution reiterates the message that mine safety laws are never, ever optional."
Hughart admitted that he and others at Massey conspired to violate health and safety laws and to conceal those violations by warning mining operations when MSHA inspectors were arriving to conduct mine inspections.
Hughart is the highest-ranking mine official ever convicted of conspiracy to impede MSHA or conspiracy to violate mine health and safety standards.
Coal mines in the United States are subject to an array of mandatory federal mine health and safety standards designed to prevent dangers such as explosions, roof collapses, and fires. MSHA conducts frequent, unannounced mine inspections to monitor compliance with those requirements. When MSHA inspectors find violations of health and safety requirements, mine owners are subject to monetary penalties and, in some cases, production shutdowns until violations are corrected.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation arm. Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., which acquired Massey's operations in a June 2011 merger, is continuing to cooperate with the investigation.
The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge Irene C. Berger in federal district court in Beckley.
Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby handled the prosecution.
BECKLEY (WVVA) - In a 1 p.m. hearing before Magistrate Clarke VanDervort, bond against former Massey executive David Hughart was revoked.
In the hearing, VanDervort said Hughart was caught driving under the influence in Beckley Aug. 30 and tested positive for oxycodone.
Hughart has acknowledged this being a violation of the conditions of his bond.
Modifications to the bond revocation would be considered pending the outcome of Hughart's sentencing hearing -- scheduled for 2 p.m. today in U.S. District Court.
WVVA's Caroline Bach is following Hughart at both court appearances today and will have more information as it becomes available.
BECKLEY (WVVA) - A former Massey executive is scheduled to appear in court twice Tuesday -- first for drug offenses, and second for federal sentencing on a conspiracy conviction.
David Hughart, 54, is facing a bond-revocation hearing with a magistrate judge at 1 p.m. after being arrested last month on drug charges. Police said Hughart was caught in Beckley Aug. 30 with the painkiller oxycodone and the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam.
Hughart is awaiting sentencing from U.S. District Judge Irene Berger on federal conspiracy charges after pleading guilty to conspiring to give miners at Massey's White Buck mine illegal advance warning about surprise inspections.
That hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. He faces up to six years in prison and a $350,000 fine for the federal conviction.
Hughart did not work at Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 miners were killed in a 2010 explosion, but has been cooperating with investigators.