More Mingo lawyers investigated
A state disciplinary agency is investigating three Mingo County attorneys, including an assistant prosecutor, who were referenced in federal corruption cases against other officials.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is investigating Ronald Rumora, Matthew Chandler and Wesley White, representatives of the office confirmed.
Rachel Fletcher Cipoletti, chief counsel for the office, said she could only confirm the existence of an open investigation and could provide no other details.
Rumora is a private defense attorney who previously served as a Mingo County prosecutor. Until last week, both Chandler and White worked as assistant prosecuting attorneys on a part-time basis. Chandler resigned Thursday, new Mingo County Prosecutor Teresa Maynard said.
He resigned before an emergency meeting of the Mingo County Commission where Maynard was appointed to take over as prosecutor for Michael Sparks, Commissioner Greg "Hootie" Smith said in an email.
Chandler and Smith work together at Smith's private law firm, and Smith said that played a role in Chandler's decision to leave the prosecutor's office.
"However, I wanted to let you know the reason Matthew Chandler resigned as a part-time assistant prosecutor before the emergency meeting was because he is an associate attorney in my private law practice and since we are down to two commissioners my vote was necessary to name a new prosecutor and he (and) I did not want there to be any appearance of impropriety," Smith said in the email.
Smith said he consulted with the state Ethics Commission about the situation. After the consultation, Smith said he felt it would be a conflict for him to vote for a prosecutor who would then be Chandler's employer.
Because former Commissioner Dave Baisden recently resigned in accordance with his own plea deal on a federal charge, Smith's vote was required to reach the two-person quorum needed for commission meetings, Smith said.
Smith said he could not comment as to whether references to Chandler in a federal indictment or the investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel played a role in Chandler's decision. Both men have fully cooperated with federal investigators, Smith said.
Chandler did not return a phone message left for him at the office Friday afternoon.
Although not specifically mentioned by name, Rumora and Chandler are referenced in two different federal charges against admitted felon and ex-judge Michael Thornsbury.
In September, the office of U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin accused Thornsbury of repeatedly trying to frame the husband of an ex-lover. The last of the several alleged attempts involved trying to convict the husband, Robert Woodruff, of a crime in connection with an alleged fight.
In 2012, Woodruff and two other men fought. Although evidence pointed to Woodruff as the victim, Gilbert police officer Nathan Glanden obtained an arrest warrant for Woodruff, according to documents filed in federal court.
After Woodruff was arrested, Thornsbury allegedly sent his friend, Jeff Cline, to tell the prosecutor's office Woodruff should be sent to jail for six months. Ignoring the fact the evidence pointed to Woodruff as the victim, that's a significantly harsher sentence than would be expected for the charge, according to the federal indictment.
Still, "a prosecutor for prosecutor (Michael) Sparks' office" offered a plea agreement to Woodruff that would have included a six-month stint in jail, the indictment states.
In a September interview with the Daily Mail, Sparks said Chandler was the attorney who offered the deal.
"I want to make clear, in my discussions with (Chandler), he has made it clear that again, the plea offer was made before the judge's friend approached him," Sparks said at the time.
Earlier in the interview Sparks said the deal was offered before his office received the police report or video evidence of the incident. They made the offer because the investigating officer insisted upon the deal, Sparks said.
"I mean, the witness statements all supported the alleged victims were the aggressor," Sparks said at the time.
"And then the video, anyone that would watch that video, no one could come to the conclusion that (Woodruff) acted inappropriately and was the aggressor or committed a crime."
Sparks eventually asked for the charges to be dropped.
Federal investigators agreed to drop charges related to these allegations against Thornsbury if he pleaded guilty to depriving a man of his rights in an attempt to thwart an FBI investigation into slain Sheriff Eugene Crum.
Thornsbury agreed, pleading guilty earlier this month. The Woodruffs are suing Thornsbury, Sparks, Glanden and others in civil court.
Sparks resigned last week after Goodwin's office filed federal charges against Sparks for his role in the conspiracy. Rumora's name comes up in connection with these allegations.
Crum received $3,000 worth of campaign materials from George White leading up to the 2012 election. Instead of paying the fee, Crum sent an informant to illegally buy prescription pills from White.
After White was arrested for the sale, the FBI let him know they wanted to speak with him. His attorney, Charles "Butch" West, encouraged and set up the meeting, where White told the FBI he'd provided Crum with prescription pills illegally several times when Crum was a magistrate.
Crum reportedly learned of the conversation and went to then-Mingo County Commissioner Dave Basiden. Baisden, in cahoots with Crum, Sparks and Thornsbury, allegedly devised a plan to convince White to switch to a different attorney who was an ally. Baisden told White's brother if White switched attorneys, it would be more likely Thornsbury would go easier on him, according to documents filed in federal court.
White fired West and hired Rumora, considered by federal investigators to be a political ally of Thornsbury.
After switching, White received a lighter sentence and fine than outlined in the original charges, according to federal court documents.
Rumora did not return a phone message left Friday afternoon.
The Daily Mail could not immediately find any reference or mention of attorney Wesley White in any of the documents filed against Thornsbury or Sparks. White did not return a phone message left Friday afternoon.
Thornsbury is set for sentencing in January. Baisden pleaded guilty to a charge of trying to force the county tire provider to give him a discount on tires for his own vehicle. He is also slated for sentencing in January.
Sparks, also expected to plead guilty, was officially stripped of his law license Friday, in accordance with an order from the state Supreme Court. His plea agreement called for him to give up his license and never seek public office again, his attorney recently told the Daily Mail.
Maynard, appointed Thursday to temporarily take over for Sparks, said in an interview Friday she had no knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing involving Sparks.
An assistant prosecutor since 2005, Maynard said she isn't related to either former Supreme Court Justice Elliot "Spike" Maynard or Tennis Melvin Maynard, the man accused of fatally shooting Crum.
The ongoing corruption saga is going to make it difficult to restore the public trust in the office of the prosecutor, Teresa Maynard said. The office needs to be open, where people feel comfortable coming in and talking with anyone, and that's going to take time, Maynard said.
"I can start that process. I'm not for sure that I'll be here long-term," Maynard said.
She said it was a difficult decision to accept the appointment. She prefers being in the courtroom and isn't "by nature a politician."
Maynard expects to remain in the office for about 30 days. The commission is accepting applications for prosecutor until Nov. 1, and Maynard isn't sure if she'll apply.
In the meantime, the resignation of Sparks and Chandler leave the office understaffed. Maynard said the office is already a little behind on its caseload, but the remaining assistant prosecuting attorneys agreed to put in extra work to pick up the slack.
None of the remaining Mingo County prosecutors -- Maynard, assistant Glen Rutledge and assistant Justin Marcum -- are under investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, said an employee at the office.