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Coal King Don Blankenship Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison for Safety Violations

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.31.39 PM

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Former Massey Energy Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship, 66, was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Charleston, W. Va., to one year in prison and fined $250,000 for conspiracy to violate mine health and safety standards in West Virginia where 29 miners were killed in a coal dust explosion six years ago.

In December he became the first CEO in U.S. history to be convicted of a workplace-safety crime, Bloomberg reports. 

“This sentence is a victory for workers and workplace safety,”  Acting U.S. Attorney Carol Casto said in a statement “It lets companies and their executives know that you can’t take chances with the lives of coal miners and get away with it.  Putting the former chief executive officer of a major corporation in prison sends a message that violating mine safety laws is a serious crime and those who break those laws will be held accountable.”

A Justice Department press release stated:

Over the course of the trial, in which jury selection began on Oct. 1, 2015, and the jury returned a guilty verdict on Dec. 3, 2015, the jury heard evidence from 27 witnesses called by the United States.  Many of these witnesses were coal miners who worked at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine prior to the 2010 explosion and they testified in detail from their firsthand knowledge of the unsafe working conditions at UBB, violations of U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regulations and organized efforts to obstruct and interfere with MSHA inspectors.

The jury heard from Bill Ross, former Manager of Technical Services at Massey, who testified that he warned Blankenship about the company’s practice of rampant violations and told the defendant prior to the UBB explosion that Massey’s standard tactic of ignoring or defrauding MSHA could not be sustained without the possibility of a serious accident that could have fatalities.  The evidence also showed that Blankenship received daily updates on safety violations and helped perpetuate them.

“Putting profits over the safety of workers is reprehensible,” Casto remarked.  “The jury acknowledged that with the guilty verdict and the sentence imposed today recognizes that disregarding safety laws has real consequences.  From the beginning, the objective of this investigation and this prosecution was to not only show that those who violate safety laws will be held responsible, but also to deter these violations in the future to make everyone’s workplace safer.”

Lengel: The FBI and Justice Department Will Get Grief for The Hillary Email Probe When It’s Complete, No Matter What

hillary-clinton

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Any way you put, when the FBI probe into the Hillary Clinton emails is finished, FBI Director James Comey and his agents, along with Attorney General Loretta Lynch,  are bound to get a lot of grief.

If Hillary walks free, the Hillary fans will say it all proves it was a witch hunt and a waste of money and time investigators could have better spent looking at far more important things like terrorism, medicare fraud and public corruption. If she gets indicted, they’ll cry foul and accuse the feds of meddling in the political process.

Conversely,  if there’s no indictment, conservatives will scream that that the FBI and Justice Department are toadies of the Obama Administration, which has an interest in Hillary winning the presidential election.

It’s a no win. But the FBI and Justice are banking on the hopes that people see they did a thorough job and tried to call the shots objectively.

Either way, it would only be fair that investigators wrap it up as soon as possible. A presidential election could be in the balance, and the closer November gets, the more the FBI and Justice subject itself to accusations of tampering with the political process.

It’s not an unenviable spot to be in.

 

Jealous Lover Who Disappeared after Murder Makes FBI’s Most Wanted List

Brenda Delgado, 33.

Brenda Delgado, 33.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A 33-year-old Dallas woman who disappeared after authorities said she arranged the murder of a dentist who was dating her ex-boyfriend has been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list, the Dallas Morning News reports. 

Brenda Delgado, who was indicted on capital murder charges, is accused of giving Kristopher Ledell Love drugs and money in exchange for killing Kendra Hatcher on Sept. 2. A drug cartel allegedly helped provide the money and drugs.

Authorities said Delgado was motivated by jealousy of Hatcher, who was dating Delgado’s ex-boyfriend.

Love was arrested and faces a state capital murder charge and a federal weapons charge.

Senator Asks ATF to Investigate Gun That Resembles a Smartphone

Gun designed to look like a smartphone.

Gun designed to look like a smartphone.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A new gun designed to resemble a smartphone may soon be investigating by the ATF.

Sen. Chuch Schumer, D-N.Y., requested the investigation, saying the small pocket pistol is designed to evade authorities.

“What’s next, a gun made to look like a chocolate bar?” Schumer said at a press conference on Monday, the Guardian reports. “Enough is enough.”

The two-shot .38-caliber derringer has a foldout handle and is marketed by the company, Ideal Conceal.

“Smartphones are EVERYWHERE, so your new pistol will easily blend in with today’s environment,” the manufacturer’s site reads. “In its locked position it will be virtually undetectable because it hides in plain sight.” The weapon is selling for $395, substantially less than the current generation of flagship mobile devices, and is expected to be available in mid-2016.

The ATF declined to comment on the issue.

Other Stories of Interest

Justice Department’s Highest-Ranking Openly Gay Leader to Step Down

Stuart Delery

Stuart Delery

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department’s highest-ranking openly gay leader is stepping down to explore jobs in the private sector.

The department’s No. 3 official, Stuard Delery, has served as acting associate attorney general after rising the ranks since starting with the DOJ in 2009, NPR reports. 

Delery was a top counterterrorism expert and also agreed cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.

“It’s been a complete privilege to work here at the Department of Justice,” Delery, 47, told NPR in an interview Tuesday morning. “It’s been a real honor to be part of it, and I feel really lucky as a lawyer to have had the chance to do it.”

Delray also investigated financial scams, voting rights and tainted food and medicine.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch called Delery “an indispensible source of wisdom, leadership and inspiration.”

“We can all take pride in the many ways he has helped to make this country more fair, more equal, and more just,” Lynch said.

Bill Baer, who leads the department’s antitrust division, is expected to replace Delery.

FBI Director James Comey: No Rush in Completing Investigation of Hillary Clinton

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

What’s the rush?

That’s what FBI Director James Comey said about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state.

Comey said there’s no need for urgency, but added that he is staying “close to this one to make sure we have the resources to do it competently,” the Niagara-Gazette reported Tuesday.

Comey made the statements during a visit to the FBI’s Buffalo, New York, field office. News outlets have suggested the investigation is in its final stage.

“We feel a great sense of urgency to do it well and to do it promptly,” Comey said.

Comey appeared to suggest that the political implications of the FBI’s timing of the investigation is not a factor.

“I wouldn’t say the concerns are any different in any of the high profile cases. And the reason is good people want to know. There’s an intense interest in investigations like that,” Comey said.

FBI Investigating NYPD, 2 Businessmen with Ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio

nypd badgeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is investigating a potential corruption scandal involving the NYPD and two businessmen with close relationships to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The probe involves gifts and foreign trips that the businessmen may have given in exchange for favors, the New York Post reports.

The businessmen – Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg – are suspected of paying for airfare, hotel bills and gifts for some NYPD officials.

The trips were to places such as Israel, London, Las Vegas, Rome and the Caribbean. 

“A number of my members have been interviewed by federal investigators,” Captains Endowment Association President Roy Richter said. “All of them fully cooperated and were told they were not the targets or subject of the investigation.’’

Rechnitz denied wrongdoing.

“I have done nothing wrong and have not engaged in any inappropriate behavior with anyone connected to the NYPD,’’ Rechnitz told The Post. “Beyond that, I don’t have any comment.’’

FBI Offers to Help Local Law Enforcement Unlock iPhones for Investigations

Apple-iphoneBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is offering to help local law enforcement bypass security features on the iPhone.

“In mid-March, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking the iPhone,” the letter obtained by BuzzFeed News reads. “That method for unlocking that specific iPhone proved successful.”

The letter, in response to questions from local law enforcement about the technique used to open the phone, continued, “We are in this together.”

Numerous law enforcement agencies have reported trouble opening locked iPhones.

Apple has refused to help, saying it would set a dangerous precedent that would compromise the security and privacy of the phones.

The FBI said its method for opening an iPhone is classified.