WVU graduate launches Blankenship letter writing campaign

Ann Bybee-Finley

A West Virginia University graduate has launched a campaign urging people to write letters to Don Blankenship while he serves a year in prison.

Many feel that Blankenship's one-year sentence for conspiracy to willfully violate mine safety laws simple just isn't enough.

It was the maximum allowed under the law for the misdemeanor conviction, but some say it's not justice.

Ann Bybee-Finley is one of those people, and she is aiming to do something about it.

"It's just too much to say. I miss my family; he hugged his," Tommy Davis said moments after Blankenship was sentenced last week in Charleston. It was that emotional interview that caught Bybee-Finley's attention.

"I feel very strongly about this, and I want to get my voice out there and I want to write Don Blankenship a letter saying how his actions have affected me. Someone who is not involved in the mining community but just as a West Virginian," she said.

Soon though, Bybee-Finley realized she wasn't the only one who wanted her voice heard and it prompted her to start an online campaign on Facebook called "Making One Year Count." Her goal is to get enough letters to send to Blankenship at least one a day for every day he is behind bars.

"This man is not inaccessible. He's not so important that he's not going to get this mail," she said.

Bybee-Finley already has received about 50 letters. Monday morning, she said, letters from Upper Big Branch Mine families started to arrive.

"As I sit on my porch, feeling the breeze blow and think about my life. I almost pity you. I don't have your money, but I do have a conscious. My children may live far from me, but I hear from them even though I don't have millions to leave them when I die. I know they love me for me and I'm not sure you will ever know if someone loves you or loves what you can leave them when you die," she read from one of the letters.

It is not yet known when Blankenship will be ordered to self-report to prison. It's also not yet know which prison he will serve his time.

You can find more information about the campaign here.

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