Mingo commissioner Baisden to plead guilty to federal charges
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mingo County Commissioner Dave Baisden will plead guilty to a federal charge of attempted extortion.
Facing unrelated federal charges, Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury is working on his own plea agreement, said a source with information about the investigation. The source is not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin confirmed Wednesday Baisden would plead guilty. His office filed a motion Wednesday asking the federal court for West Virginia's southern district set a date, time and location for a guilty plea hearing.
"Whenever a charge is filed, obviously more often than not that results in some discussion between counsel," Goodwin said.
"It obviously means that we have engaged in discussions and we are at a point where we can ask the court to schedule a guilty plea."
Steve Ruby, assistant U.S. attorney, filed the paperwork Wednesday morning.
Baisden is officially charged with one count of attempted extortion. Goodwin said it's "pretty clear" as to the charge to which Baisden is pleading guilty.
Baisden is accused of threatening to extort Mingo County's tire provider, Appalachian Tire, in 2009. Baisden was the purchasing agent for the county at the time. He stepped down from the position after he was federally indicted.
Baisden requested Appalachian Tire sell him tires at the discounted government rate to use for his personal vehicle, according to the indictment.
"Commissioner Baisden threatened that if Appalachian did not give him the price on those tires that he would discontinue the business of the county with Appalachian," Goodwin said during an August news conference.
After the company refused to sell Baisden discounted tires, he allegedly threatened to discontinue the county's business with Appalachian Tire. They still refused and Baisden told a county employee to find another tire supplier for Mingo County, according to the indictment.
Baisden pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned in late August in federal court. Since then, he has not resigned as county commissioner, but has not attended any county commission meetings. Mingo County Commissioner Greg "Hootie" Smith said Wednesday he was not familiar with the details of Baisden's plea agreement, but thought it would include something about his future status as a commissioner.
"In the event Commissioner Baisden does resign then we would accept applications & conduct interviews prior to filling the position," Smith said in an email.
Baisden's attorney, Jim Cagle, was sent a copy of Ruby's hearing request, according to federal court filings. Cagle did not immediately return a phone message.
As of late Wednesday afternoon the date of Baisden's plea hearing was not posted on the official online calendar for federal court in the state's southern district.
While Thornsbury was indicted the same day as Baisden, he faces a completely different set of charges.
Federal investigators say Thornsbury corrupted the legal system in repeated attempts to frame the husband of an exlover. Thornsbury pleaded "absolutely not guilty" at his own arraignment.
A deputy clerk in the Mingo County Circuit Court confirmed Wednesday Thornsbury's wife, Dreama, has filed for divorce. The clerk said she was not allowed to provide any other information.
Kim Woodruff is the former court employee who called off the relationship with Thornsbury. Robert Woodruff, her husband, is the man Thornsbury allegedly tried to frame.
Mike Callaghan, the attorney representing the Woodruffs, told the Daily Mail in late August the couple was ready to file lawsuits against a slew of entities mentioned in Thornsbury's indictment. Monday, Callaghan said those lawsuits are on hold in an attempt to settle the cases with formal mediation.
"I've talked with them, and I've made a demand. They need to respond," Callaghan said.
In the formal mediation process, an independent mediator tries to find a compromise. If both parties can't agree, Callaghan could still go through with the lawsuits.
In Thornsbury's criminal case, Judge Thomas Johnston recently ordered the cancellation of a pretrial motion previously scheduled for Sept. 26, according to federal court filings. Johnston's order states he canceled the hearing because there were no pending motions in the case.
Thornsbury's attorney, Stephen Jory, did not immediately return a phone message.
Melvin Smith, spokesman for Goodwin's office, would not comment on whether the judge is working on a plea agreement.