Unsealed Blankenship docs seek to move case, dismiss judge

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Hundreds of pages of court documents were unsealed last week in the criminal case against ex-Massey Energy coal boss Don Blankenship.

New court filings became available after The Associated Press and other media successfully challenged a judge's gag order. Until last week, most documents were sealed and almost everyone involved was barred from discussing the case.

Some other details from the filings:

—In response to Blankenship's motion to move the case out of southern West Virginia, prosecutors said other big cases have stayed local. They cited a former Enron CEO's criminal case, which stayed within the same district in Texas. Prosecutors also said if the judge must move the venue, Charleston and Huntington aren't far away and offer a different type of jury pool.

—Blankenship wants a different judge, since U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin is the son of U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin. Blankenship's attorneys said that taints all the federal judges in southern West Virginia, including the one in charge of his case, Irene Berger. Goodwin's office responded that his father handles no criminal cases in the district. Prosecutors also responded that under Blankenship's reasoning, if one judge has stock in company, no other judge in a district could hear a case that affects the stock's value.

—Blankenship's attorneys also accuse Goodwin's office of misconduct during the grand jury process, including using misleading questions. Prosecutors responded that Blankenship falls short in proving that the prosecution has been "vindictive and selective," as the former coal executive has contended.