Blankenship’s lawyers filed a motion April 12 asking the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn District Judge Irene Berger’s denial of his bond release during the appeal. They contend that if he serves time in prison during the appeal, most or all of his one-year sentence might be served before the court decides on his appeal.
On April 13, the court told prosecutors they have until April 20 to respond to that motion.
Blankenship was sentenced April 6 on a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate mine safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County were 29 miners died in a 2010 explosion. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine, and he also will spend a year on supervised release after his time in prison.
At the sentencing, Berger accepted a motion saying Blankenship doesn’t have to report to prison within 10 days. Berger did refuse a motion allowing Blankenship to remain free on $1 million bond pending the hearing and a decision on his appeal.
The day after the sentencing, Blankenship’s legal team filed a motion asking District Judge Irene Berger allow him to remain free pending the appeal. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond opened a docket for Blankenship’s case April 8 after his attorneys filed a formal notice of an appeal. Also, Blankenship paid his fine on April 8, according to court documents.
On April 4, Berger ruled Blankenship doesn't have to pay Alpha Natural Resources $28 million in restitution for legal fees it paid at least seven former Massey employees, investigative expenses and fines in relation to the 2010 Upper Big Branch explosion in Raleigh County that killed 29 miners.
Berger said Alpha incurred its financial hardships more than a year after Blankenship's indictment and after Alpha purchased Massey Energy in 2011. Alpha also voluntarily entered a non-prosecution agreement with the government.
Blankenship's trial lasted two months, and a federal jury convicted him on Dec. 3.
Federal guidelines say a defendant can remain free during the appeal process if he can prove his arguments raise a substantial question of law or fact that likely will result in reversal, an order for a new trial, a sentence without a prison term or a reduced sentence to a jail term less than the defendant already has served plus the expected duration of the appeal.