Renowned attorney Steve Ruby takes a personal and professional look back at the tragic Upper Big Branch mine disaster and its aftermath.
Following the deadly Upper Big Branch mine disaster in Raleigh County, West Virginia, which now occurred just over ten years ago, an investigation was spearheaded that led to the largest-ever recovery in a criminal mine safety case. Later featured on 60 Minutes on CBS, spearheading said investigation was attorney Steve Ruby.
“In the wake of the explosion at Upper Big Branch that tragically killed 29 miners, I spearheaded an investigation that would lead to a $209 million resolution and five criminal convictions,” says Steve Ruby, taking a personal and professional look back at the tragedy.
Attorney Steve Ruby is a former U.S. Attorney’s Office chief who, as a prosecutor, has amassed an extensive record of convictions, a number of which have received national and even international recognition.
Following the deadly Raleigh County mine explosion, Steve Ruby reached a resolution with the then-operator’s successor company. “At more than $200 million, the resolution represented the largest-ever recovery of its kind,” explains Ruby. Culminating in a nine-week jury trial, the case also saw the first-ever conviction of a major company’s CEO, he goes on to reveal, for a workplace safety crime.
Steve Ruby is the name behind a leading criminal defense, complex litigation, and advocacy practice. Recent representations include clients facing charges or investigations of bank fraud, healthcare fraud, wire fraud, and government funds misuse. The attorney has also recently led a successful investigation into, and the subsequent prosecution of, an individual who made serious threats against several prominent American business leaders, including the owner of a famous professional American football team.
During his tenure as a prosecutor, attorney Steve Ruby has further secured notable convictions of eight elected officials, including a state court magistrate judge who railroaded a defendant in an effort to protect a political ally, plus three further well-known individuals—each county officials—in a sophisticated election fraud scheme.
Earlier this year, Steve Ruby marked the tenth anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster which occurred on April 5, 2010. “Following a coal dust explosion at 3:27 pm on that fateful day ten years ago, twenty-nine out of thirty-one miners were killed at the site,” said Ruby at the time, speaking from his office in Charleston, West Virginia, approximately 30 miles from where the tragedy happened, close to the community of Montcoal.
Today, a 48-foot monument etched with life-size silhouettes of the miners who tragically lost their lives in the disaster can be found in nearby Whitesville, around 10 minutes north of the small West Virginia community, currently home to little more than 1,000 individuals. Dedicated in July 2012, the Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial also poignantly features a tribute to others who have lost their lives or subsequently endured ill health stemming from their work in the wider coal industry, according to Steve Ruby.
West Virginia Governor’s Investigation Ends Without Charges
As part of Jim Justice’s team of lawyers, Steve Ruby helped attain closure of the criminal investigation into the governor’s family businesses and administration. The investigation ended after a year without the filing of any criminal charges.
The investigation involved the state’s dealing with the Justice family companies, including The Greenbrier Resort, and a settlement to resolve millions in overdue taxes. As part of Justice’s legal team, Steve Ruby helped the governor defend his dealings with the Commerce Department, Department of Revenue and Tax Division. This required a high level of skill and experience from Steve Ruby and other members of Justice’s team.
The governor’s case was complex and there are still other issues pending, such as a lawsuit Justice faces over not residing in Charleston as West Virginia governors are required to do. This issue, along with other matters such as blind trusts and ethics, are being dealt with by Steve Ruby and his associates. Given the high-profile and serious nature of the Jim Justice’s legal matters, it is a testament to Steve Ruby’s skill that no criminal charges were filed against the governor.
Steve Ruby represents clients in a wide variety of white-collar criminal matters. These complex cases require an understanding of sophisticated financial matters, as well as a detailed understanding of the law. Throughout his career, Steve Ruby has participated in a spectrum of legal matters including opioid litigation, extortion and safety violations. Many of these cases were high-profile and received national attention attesting to Steve Ruby’s skills and credibility.
The Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, one of Steve Ruby’s biggest cases, resulted in five criminal convictions and $209 million in restitution in an incident that killed 29 miners. Through Steve Ruby’s leadership, determination and skill, the case yielded results for the victim’s families and the community. This type of litigation helps to prevent similar tragedies in the future and helps to keep workers safe in similar working environments around the world.
Steve Ruby is a former chief for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Through his experience as a federal prosecutor with nationally renowned cases and convictions, Steve Ruby has excelled in his white-collar criminal, complex litigation, and advocacy practice. His recent representations include clients facing bank fraud, wire fraud and health care fraud charges.
Attorney Steve Ruby discusses why the governor of West Virginia was approved to use West Virginia’s state plane to and from his hometown.
It’s not common for official state planes to make side trips to governors’ hometowns. However, the state of West Virginia recently approved such use for Gov. Jim Justice. Officials recently stated that the plane can fly to Justice’s hometown when he needs to conduct official state business. However, attorney Steve Ruby added that the plane can also fly him to campaign events, but only when it coincides with such official state business.
Steve Ruby explained that questions arose surrounding the governor’s use of the plane, especially when accessing campaign events. However, the state’s ethics commission stated that as long as the trip is primarily for conducting official state business, the governor can attend a campaign event while at the destination. Steve Ruby explained the primary purpose of the trip cannot be a campaign event.
Steve Ruby added that the ethics commission confirmed lodging and meals for the governor’s campaign events will not be paid for by the state. This issue came about when the governor asked the commission to come to a conclusion regarding the use of the plane, because he wanted to ensure it is in line with the state’s regulations.
Steve Ruby explained the governor has been involved in an enduring lawsuit regarding the governor possibly violating a passage of the state of West Virginia’s Constitution. The Constitution states that the governor must reside in the state capital of Charleston, W.V., but Justice currently lives roughly 100 miles away in Lewisburg.
Attorney Steve Ruby added that the state plane has transported Justice to or from Lewisburg as opposed to Charleston, W.V., which is why the governor was concerned with determining if such use was approved by the ethics commission. Brian Abraham, general counsel for Justice, stated that Justice uses the state plane far less frequently than previous governors. Abraham added that Justice isn’t using the plane for private enjoyment or any type of money-making endeavor. Attorney Steve Ruby confirmed these statements appeared to be true.
Steve Ruby explained that despite complaints from a Republican businessman running against Justice for the governor’s seat, the ethics commission deemed it acceptable that the state plane access Justice’s hometown instead of the state capital. Steve Ruby finished by stating that Justice is not receiving any private gain. The plane is simply traveling to a more convenient location, saving time and money for everyone involved.
Attorney Steve Ruby recently discussed the Upper Big Branch mine disaster 10 years after its occurrence.
The Upper Big Branch mine disaster took place on April 5, 2010. Twenty-nine of 31 miners on the job site were killed that day. Steve Ruby was the attorney who spearheaded the investigation of the incident, which led to five major criminal convictions and a resolution of $209 million.
The work done by attorney Steve Ruby ended in the largest-ever recovery in a criminal mine safety case. Steve Ruby stated that his investigation resulted in a nine-week-long jury trial. It also resulted in the first-ever conviction of a CEO of a major company for a workplace safety crime. Steve Ruby described that justice was sought, and thankfully for the loved ones of the miners, it was rewarded. The case and investigation led by Steve Ruby was covered on CBS’ 60 Minutes in 2016.
According to Steve Ruby and other investigation experts, the incredible amount of toxic gases in the mine kept investigators out of the mine for more than two months. This is much of what made the investigation so difficult, causing families and loved ones to wait even longer for some kind of information or resolution.
“We were determined to find answers for these hardworking miners of West Virginia, all of their loved ones, and the miners who continue to risk their lives everyday,” Steve Ruby said.
Steve Ruby also reminded his audience that Don Blankenship, then CEO of Massey Energy, was indicted on numerous criminal counts by a grand jury. He was convicted on a charge of conspiring to violate the country’s mine safety standards. Massey served one full year in prison and was forced to pay millions of dollars in fines for his infractions of more than 3,000 safety violations. Steve Ruby and countless other investigators, officials and loved ones of the miners agreed the prison sentence and fines should have been more stringent.
“Mine officials, and all others serving these high-power positions in West Virginia, have a lot of connections,” Steve Ruby said. “Ten years later, we’re still grateful we were able to put in the hard work and bring these miners and their families for justice. We weren’t going to sit idly by and watch this CEO get away with murder.”
Steve Ruby and his team send condolences to all of the loved ones of the miners, who should never have lost them in the first place. They hope a reflection on the 10-year anniversary of this event will bring more awareness for the event, the safety standards of the mining industry, and how important it is to uphold those safety standards at all times.
Ten Years Later: Continuing to Fight for Justice, Safe Workplaces, and for Workers Throughout West Virginia
It hasn’t been that long but many people have forgotten, Steve Ruby, and the people his efforts helped, have not. This marks the ten-year anniversary of the landmark mining case in West Virginia that received worldwide attention. Ten years ago, then Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby took on Massey Energy and their CEO Don Blankenship.
In that landmark case, Steve Ruby served as the lead in obtaining justice for 29 West Virginia coal miners and their families. His investigation and that case resulted in the multiple convictions of Massey’s corporate personnel, including the aforementioned Blankenship, who was sentenced to one year in prison, the maximum sentence. It also resulted in justice and the relief for the families and friends of those miners who lost their lives on that tragic day.
It was during his sentencing brief regarding that case that Steve Ruby wrote, “Which is worse: that young man carrying a gun during a single drug deal—a crime that will earn him a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence—or a CEO jeopardizing the lives of hundreds, day after day?” And those are the sentiments that continue to drive Steve Ruby today.
While this case was one of National acclaim, Steve Ruby has a long history of being the attorney who is willing to fight big business and industry on behalf of justice. Steve Ruby is also the same person who has a long history of success in protecting and helping the blue-collar worker among others from white-collar crime. In addition to big-name cases like Massey, Steve Ruby has also earned convictions against corrupt elected officials in his state of West Virginia. Steve Ruby, ten years later, is still fighting and advocating for justice, against those who abuse power, policy, and wealth.
Steve Ruby is a proud graduate from the esteemed Duke University, in addition to the Washington and Lee University School of Law. Ruby graduated from Duke University and Washington and Lee University School of Law. Taking his legal expertise and his proven record as an attorney to the aid of his fellow neighbors, Steve Ruby is happy to call West Virginia home and he continues his work maintaining a diverse white-collar criminal defense, complex litigation, and advocacy practice.