West Virginia miner loses bid to throw out key evidence in charges over safety exams

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A West Virginia coal miner accused of compromising the safety of his mine by lying about his safety qualifications has lost an attempt to have a critical part of a federal indictment against him dismissed.

Sean Chase, 31, had argued that a count of lying to federal agents about his qualifications should be thrown out because the interview on which it was based took place outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. attorney’s office in Wheeling.

But U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp has sided with the government in ruling that the interview, while occurring in the Southern District of West Virginia in April 2013, pertained directly to 29 other counts in the indictment charging Mr. Chase with falsifying records at the Tunnel Ridge Mine west of Wheeling, which is in the Northern District.

The judge said the venue doesn’t matter because statements Mr. Chase made to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration agents “inherently reference” his conduct at Tunnel Ridge and are critical to the case.

Mr. Chase provided a formal, witnessed statement in which he said he was certified to conduct safety exams but had lost his certification card in a flood.

At the mine, he repeatedly claimed to be a foreman qualified to perform mine safety examinations, but a grand jury said he holds no such certification.

In several sets of daily shift records kept at the mine, according to the grand jury, he indicated on multiple occasions in 2012 and 2013 that he was a foreman and provided a foreman certification number.

Torsten ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.

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