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Ex-Mingo judge gets 50 months in federal prison

Williamson Daily News photo Former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, center.
Williamson Daily News photo
Former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, center.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although federal prosecutors acknowledged the assistance provided to them by former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury that has helped bring down two county officials and is believed will greatly aid in future investigations into political corruption, the prison sentence he received Monday in U.S. District Court was still 50 months behind bars.

Ten months was shaved off of the 60-month sentence in exchange for Thornsbury turning over evidence against other elected officials within his own political faction.

Thornsbury had agreed to plead guilty to a charge of denying a defendant his rights to the counsel of his choice, in return for dismissing the indictment filed against him for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of his former secretary’s (mistress) husband. The former judge has made frequent trips to Charleston, according to his attorney Steve Jory, to speak with federal investigators concerning political corruption in Mingo County, where he was believed to be the leader of criminal activity within the political faction “Team Mingo.” To date, two members of that group, David Baisden (former county commissioner) and C. Michael Sparks (former prosecuting attorney) have pleaded guilty to charges against them that stemmed from the information provided by Thornsbury.

Federal prosecutors stated that Thornsbury had provided information into the corruption as late as last weekend, and say that it has played a significant role in obtaining indictments.

‘There is a significant possibility that further investigations will lead to further prosecution involving political corruption in Mingo County. This is very much an ongoing investigation.”

Thornsbury was charged in an information of denying a former defendant, George White, his right to the legal counsel of his choice. According to federal documents, the late sheriff of Mingo County, Eugene Crum, owed a $3,000 debt to White for signs and other campaign materials he had purchased during the 2012 election. White was arrested shortly after Crum took office for allegedly selling drugs. After his arrest, White hired local attorney Charles “Butch” West to represent him, and confided in his attorney that the sheriff had bought drugs from him while serving as magistrate.

West arranged for his client to speak with federal agents concerning these facts. When Crum became privy to these events, he went to the former judge and other officials and hatched a plan to keep White from talking. The defendant was told that if he fired West and hired an attorney of their choosing, he would be granted a lighter sentence. White stated during the sentencing hearing that he was told he would serve 30 days behind bars and six months on home confinement if he agreed to the offer. Although White did the bidding of the late sheriff, he was shocked to receive a prison sentence of 1-15 years.

They did not give me what they said they would give me,” said White. “My name has been drug through the mud over the past year in Mingo County. Everything I worked for all my life is gone. I fear for my safety and basically have been in hiding ever since I was released from jail. My business is ruined, I was verbally attacked by the widow of Eugene Crum – life as I knew before is gone and I don’t think I will ever be able to sleep the night through again…

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