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U.S. attorney wants prison term for Mingo judge

Willilamson Daily News photo Mike Thornsbury
Willilamson Daily News photo
Mike Thornsbury

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “Crooked officeholders in this district apparently need to see harsher consequences before they will ever respect the law,” said U.S. Attorney R. Booth Goodwin II.

“For brevity’s sake, the United States will simply note here that past prison sentences have proven insufficient to deter public corruption in Mingo County and Southern West Virginia,” Booth said. “In light of the exceptional circumstances explained in this memorandum, the United States respectfully submits that only a very substantial term of imprisonment will satisfy.”

These words were included in the United States Sentencing Memorandum released by Goodwin in the case of former Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, who is scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court on Monday at 1:30 p.m. on federal charges.

“This is an exceptional case, to say the least,” Goodwin said. “The defendant was a judge – his county’s only judge, in fact – sworn to support the Constitution of the United States. Yet he helped coerce a local criminal defendant, an unsophisticated, 65-year-old disabled miner, into firing his attorney and abandoning his defenses because those defenses would have damaged the dominant position of the defendant’s political faction and would have likely triggered an investigation of a key ally.

“The defendant possessed enormous power over Mingo County’s court system, its political system, its bar, and the county as a whole. Even more important, as a judge, the defendant bore a singular responsibility to uphold the rule of law,” Goodwin said. “By railroading a defendant in his court to further his own political interests, the defendant has done damage to the legitimacy of Mingo County’s judicial system that will take decades to repair.”

Thornsbury entered a guilty plea to charges of conspiring to violate the rights of a defendant (George White) to his choice of counsel in October 2013, in exchange for the U.S. Attorney’s office agreeing not to pursue charges of conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of the husband of his alleged mistress, who served as his secretary for several years.

Attorney Stephen Jory, of the law firm of McNeer, Highland, McMunn and Varner, represents Thornsbury, and filed his recommendations for sentencing earlier this week. Needless to say, it is the exact opposite of that filed by Goodwin…


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