CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A former superintendent at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine where 29 miners died in a 2010 explosion was sentenced to nearly two years in prison Thursday on a federal conspiracy charge.
Gary May pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Beckley last March to charges he defrauded the government through his actions at the mine, including disabling a methane gas monitor and falsifying records.
In addition to his 21-month sentence, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger fined May $20,000.
May had asked for leniency. Federal sentencing guidelines recommended 15 to 21 months in prison, although prosecutors pushed for a sentence at the high end. They said the guidelines didn’t account for the risk to miner’s lives created by May’s actions.
“I think this does send a very powerful message that if you break mine laws and risk miners’ lives, that you’re going to go to jail,” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said.
May has cooperated with prosecutors in their continuing criminal investigation of the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years. He’s among three people to face serious criminal charges.