CHARLESTON – Justice Energy, which is owned by gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice, was held in contempt Monday by District Judge Irene C. Berger for not paying a nearly $150,000 debt.
Berger fined the company $30,000 per day, beginning Jan. 5., until the company is in full compliance and has paid off the two-year-old debt. When the company paid the debt on Feb. 15, the total contempt fine was $1.23 million.
Berger wrote that the defendant has indisputably violated or failed to comply with several court orders.
Company spokesman Tom Lusk said in a statement that the company was using a payment plan to pay off the debt.
“We have always and will always fulfill every one of our commitments,” Lusk said in the statement.
The company first was sued by James River Equipment in November 2013 and has since failed to appear for four court appearances. In another court appearance, company vice president Vladislav Andreev showed up, but he failed to bring any financial documents.
Berger wrote that the company has indisputably violated or failed to comply with several court orders and is clearly in contempt.
James River requested the court also hold both Roman Semenov, listed as Justice Energy’s director, and additional Bluestone officers in contempt as well. Berger denied the request, writing that Justice Energy’s inactions did not rise to the level that any individual person should be held in contempt.
In October, Justice Energy agreed to a payment plan with James River that included six monthly payments of $30,000. The company made two payments, then missed the next one and has since not responded to the court or to James River’s attorney.
Justice, who also owns The Greenbrier resort, is running for governor as a Democrat against State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler and former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin in the May primary.
"It's more of the same from Jim Justice and his empire of deceit,” said West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas. “Justice doesn't pay bills, won't pay fines, ignores Federal courts and can't stop breaking environmental laws. Every day we find out something new that shows Jim Justice is wrong for West Virginia."
Lucas said Justice's record is long and it's filled with bad deals and unpaid invoices to small businesses.
“West Virginia deserves better,” Lucas said. “The answer to 85 years of economic failure is not electing someone who ignores the law. The answer to our problems starts with electing Bill Cole, an honest, strong conservative as our next Governor.”
Jim Justice 4 Himself, which is paid for by RGA Right Direction PAC, stated in a press release that the company and other companies owned by Justice have failed to pay debts.
“Despite being West Virginia's only billionaire, Justice-owned companies have routinely failed to pay its debts, instead sticking small businesses and taxpayers with the bills,” the press release stated. “West Virginia needs a governor they can trust to stand up for them and against Washington's overreach, but Justice has consistently demonstrated he only looks out for himself.”