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Pennsylvania

Former Greene County coal miner acquitted of reckless endangerment

| Friday, May 30, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A former Greene County coal miner who lost his job and suffered a stroke after accusations that he smoked a cigarette in a mine was acquitted at trial.

Jurors on Wednesday found Donald D. Adams, 52, of Spraggs not guilty of unlawful conduct and reckless endangerment after a two-day trial in Waynesburg. A third charge of risking a catastrophe was dropped before the trial.

The state attorney general's office filed the charges in February when other miners who smelled smoke at the Emerald Mine, a bituminous mine in Franklin Township, discovered a burned cigarette and a water bottle near the mine's air-lock doors, prosecutors said.

As the miners exited, they found Adams seated nearby. Adams was immediately suspended, then fired the following day, according to his attorney, Benjamin Goodwin of Carmichaels and Uniontown.

Goodwin said Adams, who maintained his innocence and rejected plea bargains in favor of trial, was stripped of his bituminous coal mining certifications.

He suffered a stroke eight days after he was fired and likely will never be able to return to working in the mines, Goodwin said.

“He lost everything, based on those allegations,” Goodwin said. “But throughout this, he would not take any deal. He stood by his guns.”

Had Adams been convicted of the unlawful conduct charge, a felony, he faced 10 to 20 years in prison, Goodwin said.

Goodwin acknowledged that Adams initially told his supervisors the cigarette was his, but that he had not smoked it in the mine. That admission was false, Goodwin said.

“There was some confusion over his version of the events, when he was hauled into a conference room, where he didn't know what he was being accused of, and he was being hollered at by his mine foreman,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said prosecutors failed to perform DNA tests on the cigarette butt or the water bottle, raising reasonable doubt with jurors. In addition, witnesses reported seeing two unidentified men earlier in the shift in the area where the smoke and cigarette were discovered.

“There were a lot of other inconsistencies among the miners, so there was reasonable doubt,” Goodwin said.

When the smoke was discovered, 117 other miners were working in the mine, and methane gas was present, prosecutors said.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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