CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After a lengthy hearing, which included a 40-minute recess where U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston reviewed information and answers to questions that came up during the hearing, former Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks was sentenced to 12 months in prison for reasons of depriving a defendant of his constitutional rights.
The sentence came as a surprise to many in attendance for the hearing, as information contained in a sentence memorandum by the government was released last week that went into great detail as to what an asset Sparks’ testimony had been in the federal investigation of the Team Mingo members that include former circuit judge Michael Thornsbury and former county commissioner David Baisden, who have pleaded guilty to charges brought against them.
An objection that had been entered by Sparks’ Attorney Kent Varney to not have a “role enhancement” added to the possible prison time the defendant could receive was granted by Johnston, who stated that he did not believe Sparks devised the plan to deny George White his constitutional rights but, nonetheless, was privy to the information and went along with the scheme instead of stopping it.
“He did not play a managerial role in this scheme and never directly spoke with Mr. White to encourage him to change attorneys,” Johnston said. “He was not the boss of Team Mingo, but he was the boss of the prosecutor’s office and his staff members were somewhat responsible for preparing the motions, and therefore he must be held responsible.”
Sparks was offered the misdemeanor deal after much careful thought and consideration, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby, who represented the federal government in the sentencing proceedings. In the memorandum, Ruby stated that he wrestled with whether to even charge Sparks with a crime due to his voluntary assistance and full cooperation displayed in the investigation, but said a crime was committed – Sparks had done wrong and that mistake must be punished…