A former coal company executive is seeking the dismissal of charges stemming from a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 workers in West Virginia.
Don Blankenship, former chief executive officer of Massey Energy, also has asked the court to disqualify U.S. District Judge Irene Berger from hearing his case.
Blankenship’s lawyers filed a dozen motions to dismiss last week, along with the disqualification motion and other documents, exhibits and legal briefs, The Charleston Gazette reported.
Details of filings in the case are unavailable to the public under a gag order issued by Berger. The Charleston Gazette, The Associated Press and other media outlets are challenging the order, which prohibits parties or victims from discussing the case with reporters or releasing court documents.
Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate safety and health standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County. He also is charged with lying to federal financial regulators about safety measures in the deadly explosion. His trial is scheduled to begin April 20 in U.S. District Court in Beckley.
The dismissal motions and other filings came a day after Blankenship sued Alpha Natural Resources in a Delaware court. Bristol, Va.-based Alpha bought Massey in June 2011.
Blankenship’s lawsuit says Alpha reneged on an agreement requiring the company to pay his legal costs. Alpha confirmed in a statement to the newspaper that it doesn’t intend to pay Blankenship’s legal fees going forward.
Blankenship has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges and remains free on a $5 million bond. He could face up to 31 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
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