CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A sentencing hearing has been delayed again for a longtime Massey Energy official who pleaded guilty to mine safety violations and is cooperating in the criminal investigation of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.
David C. Hughart had been scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday, after he pleaded guilty to two criminal charges that he plotted with other company officials to routinely violate safety standards and then cover up the resulting workplace hazards.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger signed an order that delayed Hughart's sentencing until 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 in federal court in Beckley.
Hughart's lawyer, Michael R. Whitt, of Lewisburg, asked for the delay because of a scheduling conflict involving a jury trial in a criminal case in Greenbrier Circuit Court, records show.
The sentencing was previously delayed from June 25 because of another scheduling conflict.
Hughart pleaded guilty in late February, and prosecutors confirmed that the former Massey official is helping them in a criminal probe that began with the deaths of 29 miners in an April 2010 explosion and has expanded into a broader examination of Massey safety practices.
Hughart faces up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $350,000. In his deal with U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, Hughart pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the government by thwarting U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspections and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to violate MSHA standards.
During a Feb. 28 plea hearing, Hughart alleged that former Massey CEO Don Blankenship was among those who took part in a decade-long conspiracy to subvert federal safety inspections at the company's mines. Blankenship has denied any wrongdoing.
Hughart did not work at Upper Big Branch, and his plea deal involved crimes he has admitted committing between 2000 and 2010 at Massey's White Buck operations in Nicholas County, where two midlevel foremen and a Massey operating subsidiary were prosecuted five years ago for criminal safety violations.