Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Don Blankenship was sentenced to one year in prison for his role in the blast that killed 29 workers. (Screenshot)

'Ruthless' Coal Baron Don Blankenship Gets Maximum Sentence for 2010 Blast

Rights group says sentencing should usher in 'new day' of accountability for executives

Nadia Prupis

A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced notorious coal baron Don Blankenship to one year in prison, another year of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000—the maximum sentence Blankenship faced—for his role in a 2010 West Virginia coal mine blast that killed 29 workers.

The sentence comes six years and one day after the explosion at Upper Big Branch. Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, was convicted in December of conspiracy to violate mine safety laws.

The sentence is "a long time coming," Dr. Judy Jones Peterson, whose brother Dean Jones died in the accident, said ahead of the hearing in Charleston.

"We've been waiting for this day," she said.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger found that Blankenship abused his position of trust as Massey CEO and organized criminal activity with five or more participants, as Ken Ward wrote for the Charleston Gazette.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby told the court that Blankenship had prioritized money over safety and endangered the lives of his workers. Ruby had previously requested the maximum sentence in the case, writing in an 11-page court briefing last week, "What punishment can suffice for wrongdoing so monstrous?"

"If ever a case cried out for the maximum sentence, this is it," Ruby said Wednesday. "Breaking mine safety laws kills people. Breaking mine safety laws kills coal miners. The defendant placed human lives in jeopardy."

Blankenship's trial has been closely monitored by rights groups who see him as the face of corporate malice. Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, said Wednesday that the sentence—albeit light—was "the right thing to do."

"With heavy hearts, coal miners and their families today can celebrate a modicum of justice," Weissman said. "For decades, coal company executives have ruthlessly endangered the lives of coal miners, disregarding the law and sure they could escape, at worst, with slap-on-the-wrist penalties."

"Hopefully today's sentence signals a new day, when executives can and will be held accountable and put in jail for their crimes," Weissman said.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Texans Deserved Better Than This': Supreme Court Leaves Abortion Ban in Place

The nation's high court set a date to hear a pair of legal challenges to the "horrific" restrictions.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Like It Never Happened': Federal Judge Tosses Trump Attack on Clean Water Rule

Denying a Biden administration request to temporarily retain the rule, the judge reestablished "the careful balance of state and federal power to protect clean water that Congress intended when it wrote the Clean Water Act."

Brett Wilkins ·


Self-Proclaimed Pro-Climate Corporations Have Been Giving Thousands to Manchin and Sinema

"As if it wasn't enough that wealthy polluters have bankrolled Sen. Manchin during his fight against common-sense climate solutions—now companies that claim to value protecting the environment have opened their pocketbooks as well."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo