Mine Manager Pleads Guilty to Second-Degree Manslaughter

An upstate New York court accepted a mine manager’s guilty plea today to manslaughter in the second degree, a Class C felony. Anthony Valente, a mine manager at a Grafton limestone quarry, admitted to causing Darren Miller’s death in October 2022 by recklessly disregarding and overriding safety features of a crane Valente was operating, which resulted in a piece of the crane striking Miller, a 35-year-old mechanic, and causing his death. 

The manager agreed to serve a six-month jail sentence and five years of probation. He is expected to report to jail on June 14, 2024.

The guilty plea follows an investigation into a worker’s death at the R J Valente Grafton Quarry. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration determined that Valente overrode a crane’s safety features when he used it to lower a replacement engine into a haul truck. 

Miller was guiding the engine into place when the crane’s overhaul hook ball detached and fell on him. MSHA found the crane tagged “out of service” during prior inspections, but the investigation into Miller’s death revealed that Valente operated the damaged crane without repairing it.

“Like every miner, Darren Miller had the right to go home at the end of the day, but Anthony Valente’s reckless actions denied him that opportunity,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “MSHA remains committed to ensuring a safe and healthy workplace for miners, and will continue to use every tool available to us as we work with states to keep miners safe.”

After its investigation, MSHA cited the mining company R J Valente Gravel for failing to remove the damaged crane from service and for not ensuring Miller stayed clear of suspended loads as he worked to replace the haul truck’s engine.

“Tragically, this incident was completely preventable,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “When employers avoid their legal obligations, the U.S. Department of Labor will use its enforcement powers to hold them accountable, including working with state and local prosecutors whenever we discover potentially criminal misconduct. We thank Chief Assistant District Attorney Matthew Hauf and the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office for partnering with us to address these unsafe work practices.”

Rensselaer County Chief Assistant District Attorney Matthew B. Hauf appeared at the proceeding on behalf of the People of New York.

“The Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office is pleased to have partnered with the U.S. Department of Labor, MSHA and the NYSP in order to hold the defendant in this case criminally responsible for the death of Darren Miller,” said Rensselaer County District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly. “This case should serve as a reminder to those who profit from the mining industry that a failure to maintain safe conditions for all employees may result in criminal prosecution.”

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