The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 22, 2013

Keep the investigation moving forward


The Register-Herald

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Former UBB superintendent Gary May became the latest person with ties to the Upper Big Branch mine disaster to be sentenced to prison time.

Even more appear to be possible.

But it may take some time to properly piece the prosecution together, according to U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.

He wants to further delay involvement in a civil lawsuit filed by former Massey Energy shareholders who say the coal company lied about its safety record to inflate stock prices.

The criminal investigation of the blast has collected three prosecutions thus far. Going forward, Goodwin says that the investigation needs to be protected until he is finished.

While we don’t like any delay in bringing cases to trial, it’s important for the prosecutor to do his job without the distraction of civil litigation.

We support the prosecutor’s wishes.

Last summer, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger issued an order that allowed prosecutors to keep their evidence secret, evidence they’ve been gathering in a continuing criminal investigation of the April 5, 2010, blast at UBB.

That was an important decision by Berger, aiding Goodwin’s work.

Goodwin filed a motion recently saying his team has made “significant progress” in the criminal case, and has even secured the cooperation of several witnesses. Those witnesses, which include May, have in turn led to other witnesses, he added.

Prosecutors have previously stated in court filings that some individual defendants in the civil case “may be or may become” targets of the criminal probe, including former Massey CEO Don Blankenship, his successor, Baxter Phillips, and former chief operating officer Chris Adkins.

With the kind of progress that Goodwin suggests, these and perhaps more could be charged.

Whether it’s sooner or later, it appears we will have an opportunity to get some answers, shedding more light on the unspeakable tragedy of Upper Big Branch.

Everyone accused deserves their day in court in this matter.

Both the innocent and the guilty.