A federal judge has denied nine motions to dismiss charges against former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship in connection with the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 people. Blankenship faces three felony counts for allegedly ignoring hundreds of safety violations at the mine in an effort to impose cutthroat production quotas on managers, plus conspiring to cover up violations during investigations. The blast was the worst U.S. mine disaster in four decades. Blankenship, who is currently free on bond, has maintained his innocence throughout the accident fallout. According to a Reuters report, his attorneys sought in particular to dismiss the conspiracy charges, saying that they were so “broadly argued” that they could have applied to Blankenship’s efforts to correct violations. U.S. District Judge Irene Berger of West Virginia’s Southern District, in her written rejection, said that the defense’s a counter argument on that front “borders on the absurd.” If convicted, the 65 year old Blankenship faces a maximum of 31 years incarceration.
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