9/10/2013 4:53 PM
by Rebecca Turco
BECKLEY - A former Massey Energy executive who admitted conspiring in an illegal advance-warning scheme at West Virginia coal mines will spend 42 months behind bars.
David Hughart, 54, was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Irene Berger on conspiracy charges that grew out of a criminal investigation into the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine disaster. He was also sentenced to a supervised release of four years. Hughart's sentence terms are to run concurrently.
Hughart apologized to the courtroom for what he did in the past. He said as a former coal miner, he was accustomed to having advanced notification of MSHA inspections.
Hughart was the former White Buck Coal president. He never worked at UBB but did cooperate with the ongoing probe. Hughart admitted he helped ensure miners at other Massey operations got illegal advance warning of surprise safety inspections and he implicated Massey CEO Don Blankenship in that conspiracy.
Massey is now owned by Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources. Blankenship denies any wrongdoing.
Hughart's son, Jonathan, said his father was cooperative and his family expected a lesser sentence. "I feel that it's absurd and I'll have to take care of my mother and make sure that she's taken care of the way that my father provided for her."
Jonathan said his father was promised by the FBI that Hughart would not have any prison time if he cooperated. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin denied that claim.
Goodwin said Hughart's sentence was above guideline range to deter similar crimes. "It should send a very clear message that if you give advanced notice of mine inspections, if you play with miners' lives, there will be significant consequences," Goodwin said.
Hughart also had a separate bond revocation hearing after he was recently arrested on drug charges. Hughart is charged with possessing controlled substances. He elected to waive his rights and acknowledged his violation. The judge granted a motion to revoke his bond.