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American justice: Be a wealthy white man who kills 29 workers and you get a year in prison. Be black and smoke a joint, get many years in prison, assuming the cops don’t just kill you.

Donald L. Blankenship, whose leadership of Massey Energy Company transformed him into one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Appalachia, was sentenced on Wednesday to a year in prison for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards.

The sentencing, in Federal District Court here, came six years and one day after an explosion tore through Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine, killing 29 people. Although Mr. Blankenship was not accused of direct responsibility for the accident, the deadliest in American coal mining in about 40 years, the disaster prompted the federal inquiry that led to Mr. Blankenship’s indictment.

In addition to the year in jail, Mr. Blankenship was fined $250,000 and is subject to a year of supervised release.

“My main point is wanting to express sorrow to the families and everyone for what happened,” Mr. Blankenship said in court before the sentencing. But he added later: “I am not guilty of a crime.”

True, you are actually guilty of many crimes. But you got out of paying for them.

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