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Mingo prosecutor maintains innocence

Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks again professed his innocence in response to allegations that have led to a petition before the Supreme Court to suspend his law license.

Federal investigators believe Sparks either knew about or participated in wrongdoing with indicted Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, slain sheriff Eugene Crum and other county officials.

Sparks, through his attorney, Lonnie Simmons, filed a petition Monday with the Supreme Court in response to the petition filed Thursday by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Simmons filed a similar petition Friday with the court, addressing a different portion of the allegations.

The Supreme Court reviewed the office's petition Thursday night. A spokeswoman anticipated it would announce a decision in the case Friday. However, it made no decision after granting Sparks' request to respond to the accusations.

In granting Sparks' request, the court announced it also is giving the Office of Disciplinary Counsel a chance to respond.

The office must file its response by 9:30 a.m. Thursday. The court won't make a decision regarding Sparks' license until after that deadline, according to a Monday release.

In a federal indictment and federal information -- similar to an indictment -- filed against Thornsbury, Sparks is accused of either knowing about improper activity or participating in it.

In the information, filed last week, Sparks is accused of working with Thornsbury, Crum, indicted Mingo County Commissioner Dave Baisden and others in a scheme to stall an FBI investigation into Crum's drug activity.

After George White -- who was arrested on charges of selling prescription pills to a Crum informant -- told the FBI he regularly gave Crum pills, federal investigators say Crum, Thornsbury and others worked out a plan to stop White from assisting an FBI inquiry.

Sparks allegedly worked with the men to make sure White received a favorable settlement once he switched attorneys. The new attorney was allegedly an ally of Thornsbury, Crum and Sparks, according to the information.

In his filing Monday, Sparks denies involvement in any illegal arrangement.

"Mr. Sparks denies ever devising a scheme with Crum, Baisden, and/or other to prevent (White) from further communicating incriminating information regarding Crum with the FBI and others," Sparks' petition states.

The petition repeatedly states Sparks "is without actual knowledge to admit or deny" any conspiracy involving Crum, Thornsbury, Baisden or anyone else pertaining to White's case and the FBI.

Sparks had no reason for White's first attorney, Charles "Butch" West, to be removed from the case, the petition states. Instead, he said he heard West was trying to set up an interview for White with the media and that led to his dismissal.

"The only reason Mr. Sparks was ever given for (White) discharging (West) as his lawyer was that (West) had attempted to convince Williamson Daily News reporter Rachel Dove Baldwin to interview (White) about Crum," the petition states.

"Mr. Sparks was told (West) attempted to arrange this interview without (White's) consent, which allegedly angered (White)."

Crum learned about West's attempts for an interview and, "visibly upset," asked Sparks to file an ethics complaint against West, Sparks states in the petition. Sparks did not because he didn't think West violated any part of the state code of conduct, according to the petition.

Sparks also states White didn't get off easy. He recommended White receive one to 15 years and a $1,000 fine after White pleaded guilty to delivery of a controlled substance and attempted delivery of a controlled substance, according to the petition. He was also required to forfeit $10,000 in cash, the petition states.

"The sentence imposed by Judge Thornsbury was consistent with the sentences imposed on similarly situated defendant," the petition states.

Sparks is also mentioned in the indictment levied against Thornsbury.

Thornsbury is accused of sidestepping due process in several attempts to frame the husband of a former flame. In the indictment, it states Sparks knew charges filed against the husband, Robert Woodruff, to be "improper" and he disqualified himself. Eventually the charges were dropped.

Sparks never reported Thornsbury to state officials, despite fears of an improper charge.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel began an investigation into Sparks after the indictment was released. Sparks said he suspected Thornsbury of wrongdoing but didn't have the proof he thought was necessary to formally file a complaint.

After federal investigators filed the information last week, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel asked the Supreme Court to immediately suspend Sparks' law license until it could complete its investigation.

Sparks immediately denied any wrongdoing, and accused Thornsbury of trying to throw him under the bus. In separate statements, interviews and social media posts he called the judge "vindictive" and a "womanizer." He also pointed to the accusations involving the Woodruffs, alluding to the idea that Thornsbury was trying to frame Sparks like he tried to frame Robert Woodruff.

Mike Callaghan, the Woodruffs' attorney, is working on setting up formal mediations with all of the people or agencies accused of hurting his clients. He said he's made an offer and has yet to hear back from anyone involved.

Sparks recently asked to be disqualified from the case against Tennis Melvin Maynard, the man accused of shooting Crum in April while the sheriff sat in his car in downtown Williamson.

Sparks said he's recently learned information that would make it impossible for him to do his job as the prosecutor. He told the Daily Mail last week some of the details in the federal information played a role in his decision to ask for a special prosecutor.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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