A suspended coal miner accused of falsifying his qualifications to conduct safety examinations at a West Virginia mine wants a judge to throw out a charge that he lied to federal agents about what he'd done, but prosecutors say his claim has no merit.
Sean A. Chase, 31, of Spencer, W.Va., is under indictment on 29 counts related to falsification of records and statements while working at the Tunnel Ridge Mine in Ohio County and one count of lying to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration agents when they came to question him at his house on April 17, 2013.
He and his lawyer are trying to get that 30th count dismissed for improper venue, saying that because the interview took place at Mr. Chase's house in Roane County, the offense charged happened outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of West Virginia in Wheeling. Roane County is part of the jurisdiction of the southern district.
Prosecutors in Wheeling responded today that the motion should be dismissed because the interview clearly pertained to the location of all the other counts - the Tunnel Ridge Mine.
The lying count is critical to the case because agents said Mr. Chase provided a formal, witnessed statement in which he said he'd taken a certification test and was certified to conduct safety exams but had lost his certification card in a flood.
In several sets of daily shift records kept at the mine, a grand jury said, he indicated on multiple occasions in 2012 and 2013 that he was a foreman and provided a foreman certification number.
Investigators said the number he submitted had never been issued by the state and turned the matter over to MSHA and the U.S. attorney.