According to reports by WV MetroNews, which is covering the daily events of the trial, former Massey subsidiary President David Hughart was the latest to take the stand, and on Thursday, October 12, he spoke about memos he received from Blankenship that bore, at best, a bullying tone.
The former Green Valley Coal group leader, who has already been convicted of crimes related to the Upper Big Branch (UBB) explosion of 2010 (he has two months remaining in a 42-month prison term), said he was accused of “extreme mismanagement” and was told he had the “worst job of managing man-hours of anyone in the business” while also being threatened to slice his hours and payroll.
He also testified that, as a result of pressure from Blankenship as well as company COO Chris Adkins, he forwarded three daily production reports to management. Conversely, Hughart has also admitted to defying Adkins’ directives by sending coded forewarnings of a federal inspector’s arrival on-site to those working underground.
Earlier on Thursday, general laborer Clifton Stover was questioned in the trial about his work as a rock duster at UBB in the two weeks prior to the blast.
According to MetroNews, the inexperienced worker did not have adequate equipment to complete his work tasks, an issue which grew larger due to what he called “regular equipment breakdowns.”
“I don’t recall a time we ever finished what we were supposed to do,” he told the jury, adding that no equipment issues existed on the night before the explosion on April 5, 2010, as he went into the mine three times to spread more than 1.5 tons of rock dust.
Former UBB dispatcher Charlie Justice, who worked at the mine for about 18 months and left in November 2009, also testified early Thursday that warning alerts of the presence of an inspector on mine property were “very commonplace” and “business as usual” for the mine, but said that he “knew he had to do it,” according to the news report. He also spoke to what he said was another common practice: the shifting of ventilation while inspectors were en route to different sections.
The testimonies follow a week of trial proceedings dominated in part by phone calls — recorded by Blankenship himself via a recording system he allegedly had secretly installed in his office — as well as memos between executives and between him and group subsidiary managers.
One that has been highly publicized was allegedly written by Blankenship and sent to all of the company’s group presidents. “Your core job is to make money at a low cost,” he said in the note. “I’m looking to make an example out of somebody.”