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 Post subject: Mine owner, foreman each plead to 5 charges stemming from de
PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 5:05 am 
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Mine owner, foreman each plead to 5 charges stemming from death

By peter E. Bortner
Pottsville Republican & Herald
October 2, 2009

The owner and foreman of the anthracite mine where a Donaldson man died in an explosion in October 2006 each entered pleas Thursday in Schuylkill County Court to five crimes stemming from the blast.

David P. Zimmerman, 53, and Steven D. Zimmerman, 34, both of Pine Grove, each pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and guilty to recklessly endangering another person and three violations of the Anthracite Coal Mining Act resulting from the Oct. 23, 2006, explosion that killed Dale Reightler.

The case represents the first successful manslaughter prosecution in Pennsylvania that resulted from a mining death, Chief Deputy Attorney General Glenn A. Parno said after the Zimmermans, who are father and son, entered their pleas.

"We're happy," Dave Reightler, Tremont, Dale's brother, said after the one-hour hearing. "You can only go with what the law gives."

Judge Jacqueline L. Russell accepted the Zimmermans' pleas but did not sentence them immediately, saying it would be at least a month before sentencing.

If Russell accepts the plea agreements between the defendants and prosecutors, David Zimmerman will spend 23 months in the county intermediate punishment program, including six months on house arrest, and Steven Zimmerman will spend three to 23 months in prison with the possibility of work release.

The state attorney general's office charged the Zimmermans with being responsible for the death of Reightler, 43, at the R&D Coal Co. Buck Mountain Mine in Tremont Township off Molleystown Road about a mile from Joliett.

Methane gas ignited in the mine, thereby causing the explosion, prosecutors said.

In April 2008, a state grand jury indicted the Zimmermans, and a third man, Jeffrey T. Klinger, 43, of Tremont, on charges stemming from Reightler's death.

On Sept. 16, Klinger pleaded guilty to blasting coal or rock without first obtaining a certificate to mine, as well as storing explosives or detonators in the direct line of blasting. Russell sentenced him to 60 days probation.

By pleading no contest to the involuntary manslaughter charge, the Zimmermans did not admit committing that crime, but offered no defense to it. They agreed prosecutors had enough evidence to prove them guilty of it and agreed to be sentenced as if they had pleaded or been found guilty.

Parno said the split plea is not unusual, and told Russell that it did not make any practical difference to prosecutors.

"They're both convictions," he said. "I can't examine the mentality of the defendants."

Dorothy Reightler, Dale's widow, filed a lawsuit on Oct. 21 in the county court against the Zimmermans and numerous other defendants. That lawsuit is still active.

Jeffrey M. Markosky, Mahanoy City, David Zimmerman's lawyer, and Assistant Public Defender Lora J. McDonald, Steven Zimmerman's lawyer, each declined to comment on the case after the hearing.

Parno said he liked the result.

"I'm very satisfied with this resolution. It holds David and Steve Zimmerman criminally responsible for Dale Reightler's death," Parno said. "It brings closure for the Reightler family."

Dave Reightler, who keeps a picture of Dale in his locker at the Harmony Mine, Mount Carmel, said the family will be at the sentencing hearing.

"We don't really want to put it behind us," he said.Defendant: David P. Zimmerman

Age: 53

Hometown: Pine Grove

Plea: No contest plea to involuntary manslaughter, guilty plea to recklessly endangering another person and three violations of the Anthracite Coal Mining Act

Defendant: Steven D, Zimmerman

Age: 34

Hometown: Pine Grove

Plea: No contest plea to involuntary manslaughter, guilty plea to recklessly endangering another person and three violations of the Anthracite Coal Mining Act

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 6:53 am 
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Location: SW Indiana
This cannot be a good outcome for the entire mining community.

MSHA threw their book.

The Criminal Courts now have.

And you can bet the Civil Lawyers are drooling over this now.

I saw a chart this past week that showed MSHA fine totals for the past several years and they have skyrocketed. Word is Congress has told MSHA to get into the mines pockets. And they are doing it big time.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 3:26 pm 
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Location: Central Ohio
Not good

I can not believe that actually was finalized to that outcome....

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 5:04 pm 
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Location: NEPA
This is terrible. I'm not saying the mine owners should walk away from this free and clear but this is going way in the wrong direction. This puts anybody that takes any responsibility at a mine site for the condition of the job/equipment in serious jepeordy anytime there is any kind of accident no matter what. The ambulance chasers just ruined another industry.

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