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Sentencing delay denied in W.Va. mine blast case

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm •  Published: December 20, 2012

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A judge has denied a motion to delay, so the January sentencing of a former superintendent at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine will go on as planned.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger denied prosecutors' request for a postponement, saying they'd failed to "state good cause." In light of the time that's passed since Gary May pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in March, Berger said she was denying the motion.

May's sentencing is set for Jan. 17 in Beckley. He's cooperating with federal authorities in the ongoing criminal investigation of the 2010 explosion at the former Massey Energy mine where 29 men died. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin had argued in his motion that he needed more time to develop evidence from May's cooperation.

"We will certainly be ready to proceed," Goodwin said Thursday. "However, the denial of the continuance is regrettable because, as we stated in our motion, there is a risk to the investigation from the sentencing proceeding itself.

"'We will certainly do our very best to minimize that risk as the matter proceeds as ordered," he said.

The explosion at Montcoal was the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in four decades. The mine has since been sealed, and Massey was sold to Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources.

Last week, a federal appeals court upheld the conviction of a former UBB security chief who lied to investigators after the blast and ordered a subordinate to destroy documents.

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