BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — A former president of a Massey Energy subsidiary implicated the company's chief executive officer in safety violations Thursday as he pleaded guilty to charges resulting from an investigation into the 2010 explosion at another Massey operation that killed 29 men.
David Hughart entered the plea to two federal conspiracy charges on Thursday in U.S. District Court. He was accused of working with others to ensure miners at White Buck Coal Co. and other Massey-owned operations got advance warning about surprise federal inspections between 2000 and March 2010.
The judge asked Hughart if there was a policy to give advanced warnings and, if so, what company officials ordered the policy.
"What officers are you talking about?" Judge Irene Berger asked.
"The chief executive officer," he replied.
Former CEO Don Blankenship was not mentioned by name. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby declined comment about Blankenship after the hearing because the investigation remains ongoing.
Blankenship retired about eight months after the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine and is the man many families of those killed have said they'd like to see prosecuted
Hughart was cooperating with investigators, a sign that authorities may be gathering evidence to target other Massey officials in their ongoing investigation. Prosecutors have declined to say who else could face charges in the wide-ranging and continuing probe of the worst U.S. coal mine disaster in four decades.