CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Author Laurence Leamer called Brent Benjamin, chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, "Blankenship's creature" and said justices on the Supreme Court are "appalling" at a Saturday reading to promote his new book, "The Price of Justice: A True story of Greed and Corruption."
Leamer told a crowd of about 60 people at Taylor Books in downtown Charleston that he knows his new book is controversial, particularly in its harsh critique of justices on the Supreme Court.
In August 2002, a Boone County jury ordered Massey Energy Co. and its president, Don Blankenship, to pay $50 million in damages to Hugh Caperton and his company, Harman Mining, which operated near Grundy, Va. In 1997, Blankenship had cut off a long-term contract Harman had signed with Wellmore Coal after Massey bought Wellmore's parent company.
The Supreme Court, though, has voted three times to reject that $50 million verdict.
"I think the judges of the West Virginia Supreme Court are appalling." Leamer said on Saturday.
"Blankenship said nothing made him so mad," Leamer said of that Boone County verdict. Today, it would be worth more than $75 million, with interest.
In 2004, Blankenship spent more than $3 million of his own money to defeat incumbent Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw, eliminating a probable vote against Massey when the Caperton case reached the Supreme Court.
During his talk at Taylor Books, Leamer said a critical issue used to attack McGraw was an April 2004 Supreme Court decision releasing Tony Arbaugh from prison.
Arbaugh was convicted of molesting his half-brother and sentenced to 15 to 35 years in prison in 1997. Arbaugh could barely read and write and was himself a victim of sexual molestation.
The Supreme Court's 2004 decision released Arbaugh from jail, placing him in a rehabilitation program.
"The case allowed Blankenship to develop one of the most vicious advertising campaigns in any election in America," Leamer said.
Those ads, on billboards and television sets around the state, accused McGraw of being friendly to child molesters.
Brent Benjamin, a relatively unknown Charleston lawyer, ran for the Supreme Court as a Republican and beat McGraw.
The $3 million that Blankenship spent on the race was more than two-thirds of all the total money raised in the election.
"Benjamin was elected," Leamer said, "as Blankenship's creature."
Leamer also talked about the release of photographs in January 2008, when the Caperton case was still before the Supreme Court, which showed Justice Elliot "Spike" Maynard on vacation in Southern France with Blankenship and both of their girlfriends.
Maynard, who voted against Caperton in two Supreme Court rulings, was defeated in the 2008 Democratic primary election.