Mining Executive’s Request For More Detailed Indictment Denied

On Monday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia denied a renewed motion for a bill of particulars from the coal executive facing federal criminal conspiracy charges arising from a fatal 2010 mine explosion.  The defense renewed the motion after additional charges were added to the indictment alleging that the executive engaged in a conspiracy to falsify respirable dust samples and falsify the locations of sampling devices within the mine before the explosion that killed 29 miners.

The defense argued that the indictment failed to apprise the identification of: (1) unidentified co-conspirators by name or category; (2) each violation of the federal mine safety and health standards among the 835 alleged violations in the indictment; (3) each instance when the defendant or an alleged co-conspirator (i) denied a request to hire more workers for safety-related tasks or (ii) imposed coal production requirements or quotas on the mine; (4) each instance of advance warning of federal mine safety inspections; (5) each violation of a federal mine safety standard that allegedly was covered up or concealed; (6) individuals alleged in the indictment to have aided and abetted the false statements by name or category; (7) the names of the company officials whom defendant allegedly directed to draft certain statements to the company’s shareholders; and (8) each individual who falsely represented a respirable dust sample collected at the mine in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Presiding judge Irene Berger denied the request and pointed to the sufficiency of the indictment, the ongoing discovery process, the breadth and specificity of the defendant’s previously filed pretrial motions, and Fourth Circuit precedent indicating that a bill of particulars is designed to “supply any ‘essential’ detail which may have been omitted from the indictment.”  She explained that the information the defendant sought “far exceeds any essential detail omitted from the indictment.”



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