CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday to criminal charges against him.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley asked Thornsbury, "How do you plead?" and he responded with a firm "Absolutely not guilty."
Thornsbury, 57, was indicted by a federal grand jury last week on two counts of conspiracy against rights. Prosecutors allege that the judge tampered with the judicial system in an effort to intimidate the husband of his secretary, with whom he was having an affair.
He left the courtroom immediately after his hearing, and did not stay for the subsequent arraignment of Mingo County Commission President David Baisden, who was also indicted last week on unrelated charges.
Baisden, 66, pleaded not guilty to attempted extortion involving his attempt to get a substantial county discount on tires for his personal vehicle in 2009. When Appalachian Tires refused, Baisden arranged for the contract for all county vehicles to go to another vendor.
Those two criminal indictments have shaken Mingo County residents.
A trial is set for Thornsbury Oct. 15 before U.S. Judge Thomas Johnston. Baisden's trial is scheduled for Oct. 21 and will be heard by U.S. Judge John Copenhaver. Both will take place in Charleston.
Thornsbury and Baisden are each free on a $10,000 bond. Thornsbury confirmed that he surrendered his United States passport as a condition of bond.
The Mingo judge has also been removed from the bench by the West Virginia Supreme Court and two other senior status judges were immediately appointed to handle his docket.Supreme Court Director Steve Canterbury filed a complaint against Thornsbury after the federal indictment and the Judicial Disciplinary Board will begin its own investigation.