Gold miners to be arraigned in accidental death of worker
Two embattled Sierra County gold miners will face involuntary manslaughter charges Thursday in connection with a fatal mine accident.
Michael M. Miller and Jonathan T. Farrell are set to have an arraignment Thursday in Sierra County Superior Court.
The court will also hear a motion to set aside the charges.
Miller, 60, is the owner and president of the Original Sixteen to One gold mine in Alleghany. Farrell, 32, is the mine’s manager.
In October, a grand jury charged both men with involuntary manslaughter and willful violation of an occupational safety or health standard, causing death.
The charges are in connection with the accidental death of miner Mark Raymond Fussell in 2000.
Fussell died when his head was wedged between the battery of the mine locomotive he was driving and a protruding ore chute in a newly reopened section of the mine.
Federal investigators say the accident was caused by failure of the mine operator to properly mark the chute with warning devices.
They also said the locomotive had a defective speed mechanism, which contributed to the accident.
California District Attorneys Association attorneys approached Sierra County’s prosecutor with information that indicated there could be a case in connection with Fussell’s death.
Miller and Farrell are being prosecuted by a deputy district attorney from the California District Attorneys Association, which oversees the Worker Safety Project, a state-funded program that provides rural areas with attorneys versed in employee safety matters.
The fact the case is being tried by the state prosecutors has caused some controversy in Sierra County. The case has a gag order issued at the prosecutors’ request.
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