According to The Associated Press, it took jurors about six hours to find the mine’s former security chief, Hughie Elbert Stover, guilty on the lying charge and a second count of seeking to destroy of thousands of security-related documents following the explosion. Jurors for a federal court in Beckley, W.Va., heard two days of testimony in which prosecutors painted Stover as an obstructionist and defense attorneys claimed he was a scapegoat.
Stover remains free pending a February 29 sentencing hearing. He faces an estimated two years in prison on the record-disposal count alone. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said prosecutors will seek as stiff penalty as possible to deter such conduct.
“While we press forward with this investigation, we will not tolerate obstruction,” Goodwin said.
No one else has been charged in the mine disaster. With both state and federal investigations ongoing, Goodwin said no potential criminal charges for others are off the table. “There were serious matters that existed in this mine that didn’t just happen overnight or without the involvement of individuals,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Blaire Malkin had earlier reminded jurors of testimony from others at the Raleigh County underground mine. These witnesses alleged that Stover instructed mine guards to send out alerts by radio whenever inspectors entered the property. Such a practice is illegal. One of the criminal charges alleges Stover denied in a November 2010 interview with investigators that there were any advance warnings at the mine.
The other count alleges that Stover sought to destroy the documents the following January, by ordering a subordinate to bag and then throw them into an on-site trash compactor. Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Ellis suggested to jurors that those records would prove Stover had lied about inspection tip-offs. The attempted disposal also violated repeated warning from the mine’s then-owner, Massey Energy, to keep all records while the disaster remained under investigation. Massey officials told investigators of the trashed documents, which were recovered.