Massey boss threatened, grabbed reporter, ABC News says

John O'Brien Apr. 3, 2008, 2:10pm

ABC News photo of Don Blankenship

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - ABC News plans to air its report on Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship's effect on the West Virginia Supreme Court Monday.

The piece will be featured on "World News with Charles Gibson" and "Nightline."

According to ABC News, an interview with Blankenship got physical. It says he told a reporter, "If you're going to start taking pictures of me, you're liable to get shot," in the parking lot of an office in Kentucky.

ABC says tape of the incident shows Blankenship grabbing the camera and breaking its microphone. Reporter Asa Eslocker says Blankenship grabbed him around the collar with both hands.

Blankenship's attorney wrote to ABC, claiming, "Mr. Blankenship has been a frequent target for harassment and physical attacks over the years, so his reaction is not so surprising when you consider that he was approached unannounced by an intruder on private property."

In a report in the Charleston Daily Mail, Blankenship said he didn't remember making any threats.

The relationship between Blankenship and Chief Justice Spike Maynard has been called into question since photographs of the two together in Monaco surfaced. They claimed they were coincidentally vacationing at the same time and place.

He also put millions into unseating Warren McGraw in 2004, helping Brent Benjamin earn a spot on the Court. Maynard, facing re-election, has recused himself from all of Massey's pending cases, while Benjamin has refused. Fellow justice Larry Starcher has long been critical of Blankenship, publicly calling him "stupid" and "a clown."

Starcher has not recused himself from Massey's appeal of a $240 million Brooke County verdict in favor of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. and Mountain State Carbon but has recused himself in the appeal of a $76 million verdict against Massey.

Blankenship has sued the state Supreme Court in federal court in an effort to have Starcher removed from all his cases.

In recusing himself from the $76 million Harman Mining Co. case, Starcher urged Benjamin to do the same.

"(T)he pernicious effects of Mr. Blankenship's bestowal of his personal wealth and friendship have created a cancer in the affairs of this Court," Starcher wrote. "And I have seen that cancer grow and grow, in ways that I may not fully disclose at this time.

"At this point, I believe that my stepping aside in the instant case might be a step in treating that cancer -- but only if others as well rise to the challenge.

"If they do not, then I shudder to think of the cynicism and disgust that the lawyers, judges and citizens of this wonderful state will feel about our justice system."

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