News in Brief

Ex-coal CEO Blankenship convicted on 1 count, acquitted on 2

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A jury has found ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship guilty on one of three counts connected to a deadly coal mine explosion.

Blankenship was convicted Thursday on a conspiracy count but acquitted of making false statements and securities fraud.

A 12-member jury returned the verdict for the former coal industry executive in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

Blankenship was tried on charges of conspiring to break safety laws and defrauding mine regulators at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch Mine, and lying to financial regulators and investors about safety. The mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 men.

Prosecutors contended that Blankenship was a micromanager who meddled in the smallest details at the mine, and cared more about money than safety.

His multimillion-dollar defense team said the government had no evidence Blankenship was involved in a conspiracy.

Blankenship was indicted in November 2014 and his trial began Oct. 1.


Army: 2 pilots killed in helicopter crash in rural Tennessee

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two Army pilots were killed when their helicopter crashed near Fort Campbell in rural Tennessee, the military said.

The two crew members were flying a two-seat AH-64D Apache during a routine training mission when the helicopter went down around 7 p.m. Wednesday, according to a news release from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

The helicopter was found in a river bottom and was on fire when first responders arrived, Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency Director Jerry Buchanan told Nashville newspaper The Tennessean.

Fort Campbell spokesman Maj. Allen Hill said he was aware of that report, but Army personnel on the ground said that was not the case. He said the crash occurred in a rural field near the Cumberland River. He confirmed that the helicopter was on fire when found.

The scene was secured by military police from Fort Campbell and Montgomery County law enforcement.

The cause of the crash has not been determined, the Army news release said. The crash was being investigated by the Army Combat Readiness Center. The names of the pilots were not immediately released.

Hill said it could take six months to determine the cause of the crash. He said the Army Combat Readiness Center is reviewing information to determine whether there were any communications from the pilots before the crash.

Weather conditions in the area were good at the time — a clear night with good visibility and light wind, meteorologist Brittney Whitehead with the National Weather Service in Nashville said.

Fort Campbell is on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, about 60 miles northwest of Nashville.


Kentuckians urged to get vaccinated against flu

FRANKFORT (AP) — State public health officials are urging Kentuckians to get flu vaccinations to reduce the spread of the illness.

Dr. Kraig Humbaugh says getting a flu vaccine is an early holiday gift that people can give to themselves and their families.

He says as people gather for the holidays, that increases the potential for exposure to the flu. Humbaugh is deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

National Influenza Vaccine Week is Dec. 6-12.

Kentucky health officials report weekly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of statewide flu surveillance efforts.

Kentucky’s flu activity is currently classified as “local.” That indicates outbreaks of flu or increases in influenza-like illness cases in a single region of the state. Vaccine supplies are considered plentiful at this time.


Derrick Ramsey to head Labor Cabinet under Bevin

FRANKFORT (AP) — Gov.-elect Matt Bevin has appointed Derrick K. Ramsey, a former NFL player and the University of Kentucky’s first African-American quarterback, to be secretary of the Labor Cabinet.

The 58-year-old Ramsey previously served in state government in former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration as deputy secretary of commerce. Bevin’s office said in a news release that Ramsey is returning to the public sector after seven years leading the Coppin State University athletic department.

Bevin, only the second Republican to win the Kentucky governor’s office in four decades when he was elected Nov. 3, takes office next Tuesday.

Ramsey was also previously athletic director at Kentucky State and held positions at UK.

In the NFL, Ramsey helped the Raiders win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.

Ramsey is a member of the UK Hall of Fame. His jersey was retired there in 1992.


100 soldiers returning to Fort Campbell in coming days

FORT CAMPBELL (AP) — About 100 soldiers are returning to Fort Campbell over the next few days.

The Army post on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line says in a news release that the soldiers are from the 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.

The post said the soldiers have been deployed in support of contingency operations.

Welcome home ceremonies are scheduled Friday, Saturday and Monday.


Sam Wright being sworn in to Supreme Court next week

FRANKFORT (AP) — A formal swearing-in ceremony will be next week for Sam Wright, elected last month to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Clerk Susan Stokley Clary said in a news release the ceremony will be at 11 a.m. EST Monday in the Supreme Court Courtroom at the Capitol.

The longtime Letcher County Circuit Court judge last month defeated Janet Stumbo, a former Supreme Court justice now on the state Court of Appeals.

The release credits Wright with starting the first “Parent Education Clinic” in eastern Kentucky to help parents going through divorce and with starting a drug court to provide treatment and support for substance addiction recovery for people with criminal convictions.


Ex-federal employee pleads guilty in Fort Knox-Nolin case

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A retired federal employee has pleaded guilty after one day of trial to violating conflict of interest laws.

The U.S. attorney’s office says 68-year-old Gary Thomas Meredith of Leitchfield pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Louisville. Prosecutors say Meredith admitted being involved in creation of a contract in which he had financial interest.

Sentencing will be March 9.

A news release from prosecutors says Meredith was energy manager at Fort Knox for more than 20 years. The release says before retiring, Meredith negotiated the pricing of a contractor position with Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. and arranged with Nolin to work in the position.

Nolin earlier agreed to pay more $7.6 million in civil penalties and forfeitures resulting from its business dealings with Meredith and Fort Knox.

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