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Judge Declines to Toss Blankenship Suit Against Donald Trump Jr.

September 3, 2021 by Dan McCue
Don Blankenship

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal Judge in West Virginia has refused to throw out a defamation lawsuit filed by one-time coal magnate Don Blankenship against Donald Trump Jr.

The lawsuit stems from comments Trump Jr., son of former President Donald Trump, made about Blankenship during the 2018 U.S. Senate race in West Virginia.

That race ended, of course, with the re-election of Sen. Joe Manchin.

But throughout the race, Trump Jr. harped on Blankenship, the former CEO of the Massey Energy coal company, noting he served a year behind bars for his role in a 2010 mining disaster.

The explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia killed 38 people and was the deadliest in American coal mining in about 40 years. 

Jurors convicted Blankenship of a misdemeanor charge of “routine, willful violations” of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, but acquitted him of three felony charges that could have led to a prison term of 30 years.

In his lawsuit, Blankenship argues Trump Jr. wrongly defamed him by describing him as a convicted “felon,” Blankenship was incarcerated because of a misdemeanor conviction, not a felony conviction.

In one of his anti-Blankenship tweets, Trump Jr. said of Manchin, “He’s probably never run against a felon.” 

U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver, Jr., who was appointed by President Gerald Ford in the mid-1970s held that Blankenship’s lawsuit can move forward.

THe 95-year-old jurist wrote that, “based on this article that Trump Jr. himself cites within his own quote tweet, there is a plausible inference that he had knowledge of the plaintiff’s conviction history in association with the mine explosion, and in particular that the conviction was a misdemeanor, not a felony.”

Blankenship, who has since left the Republican party, lost the 2018 GOP senate primary in his state to Republican Patrick Morrisey.

The coal executive ran for president as a member of the right-wing Constitution Party in 2020.

Law

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