Criminal Justice

Second Massey Manager Is Charged in Fatal Mine Accident; Conspiracy Allegation Is Unusual

A second manager at Massey Energy Co. has been charged in connection with the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners, and there could be more prosecutions ahead.

Former mine superintendent Gary May, 43, was charged with conspiracy to impede safety efforts in a single-count information (PDF), an indication that he reached a plea deal and is cooperating with prosecutors, report the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin of Charleston, W.Va., says the investigation is “absolutely not” finished, the AP story says.

Prosecutors allege May participated in a conspiracy partly by using code words to signal the arrival of safety inspectors. “Getting cloudy,” for example, meant that investigators were on their way while “sunny” meant they were not there.

Legal experts say the felony conspiracy allegation is unusual in mine accidents and is a way to increase the penalties for violating mining laws, the Wall Street Journal says.

Booth announced the charge in a press release.

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