CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sentencing of an Upper Big Branch Mine superintendent will be delayed for two months while prosecutors use information he provided to pursue other potential targets in their ongoing criminal investigation of the April 2010 mine disaster.
Gary May had been scheduled to be sentenced in August after pleading guilty in a deal with U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby asked for a delay of at least 60 days, and U.S. District Judge Irene Berger rescheduled the sentencing for 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 in federal court in Beckley.
"Defendant is cooperating in an ongoing investigation and the parties need additional time to fully develop the extent of his cooperation before sentencing and the preparation of pre-sentencing materials," Ruby wrote in a court filing on Friday.
May has already testified once for federal prosecutors, appearing at the sentencing hearing of a former Massey security chief convicted of lying to investigators and trying to destroy evidence in the mine disaster probe.
Depending on how helpful prosecutors view May's cooperation in their pursuit of other Massey officials, government lawyers could ask Berger to reduce his ultimate sentence. May faces up to five years in prison for one felony charge.
In March, May admitted to conspiracy to violate mine safety standards and cover up the resulting hazards prior to the April 5, 2010, explosion that killed 29 miners at the Massey Energy operation in Raleigh County.
May admitted that he plotted "with others known and unknown" to put coal production ahead of worker safety and to conceal the resulting hazards on numerous occasions at Upper Big Branch.
May, 43, of Bloomingrose, admitted that he took part in a scheme to provide advance warning of government inspections and then hide or correct violations before federal agents could make it into working sections of the sprawling mine.
For example, May, after learning that federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors were about to sample the level of coal dust in the mine, "surreptitiously redirected" additional fresh air to the area to conceal actual working conditions in the mine.