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Ex-coal exec pleads not guilty in W.Va. mine blast |

Ex-coal exec pleads not guilty in W.Va. mine blast

The Associated Press
Ex-coal boss Don Blankenship contends that he’s in federal prosecutors’ crosshairs because he released a controversial video that enraged an old political foe. He weaves the story of his clasheds with West Virginia Democrats through hundreds of pages of court documents in his criminal case.

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Former coal company chief executive Don Blankenship has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges in the deadliest U.S. coal mine accident in four decades.

Blankenship entered the plea Thursday at his first court appearance since he was indicted last week. He is accused of conspiring to violate safety and health standards at the Upper Big Branch mine. In April 2010, an explosion at the mine killed 29 men.

The 64-year-old Blankenship faces up to 31 years in prison if convicted.

His bond was not immediately set. The hearing was in a recess and bond was expected to be set later Thursday.

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