Louisville Jefferson County

Jury Acquits 4 Coal Officials in Dust Collection Tampering Trial – Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky

Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky 2021-11-19 02:38:03 –

A federal jury has dismissed four former coal company officials accused of evading dust rules in two underground mines in Kentucky.

A jury in the US District Court in Louisville deliberated on Wednesday for about two hours before returning the innocent verdict. The trial was a rare attempt to prosecute a coal company employee for criminal accusations.

According to the Associated Press and local news reports, federal prosecutors alleged that the man ordered his men to tamper with the dust collectors of the two Armstrong coal mines in order to comply with federal regulations.

However, the defense lawyer said the prosecutor lacked evidence that the man had participated in a plot to fool the rules.

In this case, I knew my client was not guilty.

Louisville lawyer Kent Wicker said “there was never a fragment of evidence” that his client, Glendal “Buddy” Hardison, was guilty.

“We were pleased with what the jury understood,” Wicker said.

Hardison, the highest corporate officer of the four, was responsible for all of Armstrong’s western Kentucky mines. The coal company went bankrupt in 2017.

Jason Glover, a U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration proceedings officer, declined to comment after the verdict on Wednesday afternoon.

Eight people were indicted in this case in 2018, and Hardison was added to the case in 2019. The five have agreed to a plea bargain with the prosecutor to avoid felony charges.

Throughout the trial, four male lawyers alleged that he did not participate in dust pump rigging and did not explicitly order anyone to break the rules.

“In this case, I knew my client was not guilty,” said Mark S. Murphy, a lawyer for Charlie Barber, a former director at one of the Armstrong mines. “This proceeding should not have been prosecuted.”

Federal dust regulations exist to protect miners from inhalation of dusty air, which can cause an incurable and deadly disease called pneumoconiosis or black lung. The disease killed tens of thousands of miners.

In a statement on the 2018 Armstrong coal indictment, Dave Zatesaro, a former mine safety officer in the country, said that compliance with dust safety regulations is “important to protect miners from respiratory illness. “.

However, a 2019 judge’s order prohibited prosecutors from discussing the relationship between mine dust and black lung disease in court. Judge Joseph McKinley of the U.S. District Court ruled that “words that specifically refer to the black lungs and the process of illness are irrelevant and serve no purpose other than to fuel the jury.” bottom. McKinley said that if a man is convicted, evidence of black lung risk may be raised in the decision.

Prosecutors said the suspect’s case occurred at Armstrong’s Kronos and Parkway mines between 2013 and 2015. A group of miners complained about the dusty condition of the mine, met with a lawyer and filed a proceeding. At least two of the former workers have been diagnosed with black lung disease.

The trial was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic and later moved from Owensboro to Louisville. A new judge, Benjamin Beaton, a US district judge from Paducah, has also been appointed.

In addition to Hardison and Barber, former safety director Brian Keith Casevier and former chief Dwight Fulkerson were acquitted on Wednesday for conspiracy.

The charges of former Armstrong coal officials were similar to the proceedings filed against former coal cadre Don Blankenship in West Virginia after the deaths of 29 miners in the 2010 coal mine explosion. Blankenship was convicted of misdemeanor in 2015 and sentenced to one year in prison. He was not blamed for the direct responsibility of the deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine, but prosecutors were able to prove that he had colluded to circumvent the mine’s safety rules. ..

Copyright 2021 AP communication. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Jury Acquits 4 Coal Officials in Dust Collection Tampering Trial Source link Jury Acquits 4 Coal Officials in Dust Collection Tampering Trial

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