Court denies appeal of Upper Big Branch conviction - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Court denies appeal of Upper Big Branch conviction

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A former Upper Big Branch mine security director was denied an appeal of his conviction on charges of lying to investigators and destroying evidence related to the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners.

The ongoing criminal probe of the explosion that occurred at the then Massey-owned mine uncovered that Hughie Elbert Stover had attempted to hide safety records prosecutors sought as evidence. Stover also was found guilty of lying to federal investigators.

Stover was specifically accused of denying the practice of providing advance notice of the arrival of mine safety inspectors. The practice is illegal and evidence that it was common at Upper Big Branch has been found in numerous investigations of the mine explosion.

After he was convicted in a jury trial held last year, Stover appealed his three-year jail sentence. In filing his appeal, Stover said U.S. District Judge Iren Berger improperly denied several motions, including attempts to suppress conversations with investigators and a dismissal of charges.

The U.S. 4th Circuit of Appeals disagreed with Stover, upholding the federal district court's conviction.

The decision, written by Judge Max O. Cogburn, concluded that there was substantial evidence supporting the jury's conviction of criminal intent in destroying safety records.

"In sum, we affirm the district court's judgment in its entirety," the decision states. 

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