Testimony and other evidence suggests that the very man who insisted that the Upper Big Branch Mine change its airflow both tampered with and destroyed evidence of what really happened at Upper Big Branch. There is also evidence that the MSHA investigation team destroyed evidence. But here I outline only some of what we know about claims by MSHA employees that the MSHA District Ventilation Specialist hid the UBB truth.

Joe Mackowiak was the MSHA Ventilation Specialist for the agency in the Upper Big Branch Mine District at the time of the explosion.

Bill Ross was the “former” MSHA Ventilation Specialist in this same district. In other words, Mackowiak succeeded Ross in the job. Once Ross retired from MSHA he was hired by Massey to assist with safety training and ventilation planning.

Chris Blanchard was the Massey Group President overseeing management of the UBB mine at the time of the UBB mine explosion.

Ross and Blanchard were the government’s two lead prosecution witnesses against me at my trial. Both testified that Mackowiak forced them and the miners to make changes in the UBB system that cut the airflow to the miners in half prior to the explosion. Ross, in fact, testified in tears that he begged Mackowiak not to do it, ie not to cut the airflow. But Mackowiak insisted and the changes Mackowiak required which cut the air in half were completed the morning of April 5, 2010. The mine blew up, killing 29 miners, just eight hours later.

Ross said that after the explosion he went to his old MSHA office where Mackowiak was then in charge to look at some maps and documents about prior gas inundations at UBB. Mackowiak was not there. Ross could not find the documents so he asked his former secretary who was now Mackowiak’s secretary where the documents were. Ross says that the secretary told him that Mackowiak had carried the documents out of the office in trash bags.

Later, Ross even filled out and signed a sworn statement that the secretary told him that Mackowiak had taken the documents out of the office in trash bags. Another Massey engineer who was with Ross also swore that is what she said. Regardless the documents have not been seen since. At trial, the Judge refused to allow the Jury to be told any of this. In other words, the Jury did not know of this claim. But worse, Prosecutor Ruby told the trial Judge that he himself did not know of the claim that Mackowiak had destroyed documents. Yet, my attorneys now have proof that Ruby did know. Worse still, the Jury nor my attorneys nor I knew any of the things you are about to read below.

n MSHA employee, referring to UBB ventilation plan maps and documents, told MSHA and Department of Labor managers that Joe Mackowiak “switched those files after the explosion and got away with it”. The employee also said that after the explosion Mackowiak “removed the file books for UBB and retrieved the file stamps”. She then indicated that ventilation plans were stamped with both district and field office stamps. She said “the dates were backdated to make it appear the plans were already in the file prior to the explosion”.

But that is not all. An MSHA District Safety Assistant said “the ventilation section of the UBB file was ‘purged’ after the explosion”. She also recalled that “gas well permits were missing from the file and could not be located”. Readers should recall that I have repeatedly said that UBB experienced a natural gas explosion and not as MSHA claims a coal dust explosion. The chemical analysis of the gas that exited UBB after the explosion was identical to the gas that is produced from the gas wells for which the permits were missing.

But again that is not all. Another MSHA employee recalled and swore that “Joe Mackowiak” said that purged items did not need to be kept in the mine file. However, this is not true. Most of us are aware that the law does not allow evidence to be purged or destroyed or hidden or altered during a federal criminal investigation.

The summary is that multiple MSHA employees and managers have said under oath that the very man who the government’s own witnesses say required them to change the ventilation plan and cut the miners air in half then destroyed, altered, backdated, purged, and forged signatures on ventilation documents and maps after the UBB explosion. These same employees also say that natural gas well permits under Mackowiak’s watch went missing.

Is all this true or are all five of these people lying under oath about what Mackowiak did?

The fact is that it does not even matter whether these claims are true when deciding whether my conviction should be invalidated. What matters is that the United States government kept these claims hidden from my defense attorneys until years after my trial. Prosecutor Ruby lied when he said he did not know about Ross’ claim.

It is likely that the jury would never have convicted anyone other than MSHA and DOJ had they known about all of these MSHA employee claims. The Constitution is a wonderful document which enumerates our human rights but if misconduct actions by prosecutors like Ruby and Goodwin are going to be defended by US Attorney Glassman, Mitch McConnell, Joe Manchin, the media, and the Judges the Constitution is not worth the paper it is written on.

Corruption is usually hidden by the perpetrators. But in this case it is transparent and unquestionable.

Don Blankenship