Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship finished a year-long prison term and immediately took to Twitter to criticize federal prosecutors and regulators and to challenge West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin to a debate, the Wall Street Journal reports. Blankenship, 67, was convicted in 2015 on a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate federal mine-safety laws at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, where 29 workers died in 2010. A jury acquitted him of securities-related felony charges that could have resulted in a far longer sentence. Prosecutors never alleged that his actions caused the blast, the worst U.S. mining accident in 40 years.
Sen. Manchin said yesterday that Blankenship’s “refusal to accept responsibility for his criminal actions even now only exacerbates the [miners’] grieving families’ pain.” Blankenship said his incarceration was tough but easier to endure than his impoverished upbringing in West Virginia, where he didn’t have indoor plumbing. He spent 10 months at the Taft Correctional Institution near Bakersfield, Ca., followed by a month at a halfway house in Las Vegas and then one month of home confinement. At Taft, he said he had to return to his room several times a day to be counted, couldn’t choose what to watch on TV, and the lights went out at 10 p.m. “Not being able to go anywhere off a 4-acre site is not pleasant, no matter what the conditions,“ he said. “It was not horrible.”