A while back, a case against mountaintop-removal giant Massey Energy reached the West Virginia Supreme Court, which overturned a previous judgment fining the company. But then pictures turned up of Massey CEO Don Blankenship canoodling around the French Riviera with one of the court judges and two female “companions.” Oops. The court decided to re-hear the case, minus the offending judge.
Then another judge, who had said that “the pernicious effects of Mr. Blankenship’s bestowal of his personal wealth, political tactics, and ‘friendship’ have created a cancer in the affairs of this court” — got bullied off the case by Massey allies. Two down.
That second judge, on his way out, argued that yet a third judge should also recuse himself, since Blankenship had spent $3.5 million supporting his reelection. But that third judge, Brent Benjamin, refused to go.
Which brings us to the present. Yesterday, the court again overturned the $76 million judgment against Massey, by a 3-2 vote. And yes, the aforementioned Benjamin (as in 3.5 million benjamins) was the tie-breaking vote. Now the case will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In other Massey news, Blankenship assaulted an ABC News reporter in a parking lot after saying, and I’m not making this up, “If you’re going to start taking pictures of me, you’re liable to get shot.”
He has denied making threats, and said the cameraman and reporter did not identify themselves when they approached him. The tape, however, has them identifying themselves twice on their approach, and him threatening to shoot them.
The footage will appear in a report on Massey that will air Monday night on ABC News’ “World News With Charles Gibson” and “Nightline.” Don’t miss it.