WILLIAMSON, W.Va. -- A man at the heart of the federal investigation into political corruption in Mingo County finally has the attorney he wanted in the first place.
George White, 65, rehired Charles "Butch" West Monday to represent him in his attempt to have a highly scrutinized drug conviction overturned.
White also hired David Barney, of the Charleston law firm Thompson Barney.
Although no decision was made as to whether the conviction should be tossed, Barney and West said it's clear White was denied his right to the attorney of his choice.
"The documents speak for themselves: they concocted a scheme to deprive me of my right to make a living and to keep Mr. White from his sixth amendment guarantee of counsel of his choice," West said after the hearing.
"I've been on this case since before day one. I don't consider it ironic, I consider it as George White likes for me to be his lawyer."
White, with West and Barney, appeared before Senior Status Judge John Cummings Tuesday afternoon in Mingo Circuit Court to discuss vacating the conviction.
White was imprisoned earlier this year on a drug charge, but was released Nov. 15 until Cummings decides whether the conviction should stand, according to the Charleston Gazette.
Until Monday afternoon, Williamson-based attorney Ron Rumora represented White.
His representation and White's case in general played a key role in former Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and former Prosecutor Michael Sparks eventually pleading guilty to federal charges.
Ex-Mingo County Commissioner Dave Baisden is also accused of tampering with White's case, although he pleaded guilty to an unrelated federal charge.
Documents filed in federal court allege Thornsbury, Sparks, Baisden and others schemed to stop White speaking to the FBI about alleged drug activity by slain Sheriff Eugene Crum.
Crum owed White, who runs a sign shop in Delbarton, $3,000 for materials he used during his 2012 campaign for sheriff, federal prosecutor say. Instead of paying White, after taking office Crum sent an informant to buy drugs illegally from White.
White was arrested, and hired West as his attorney. West encouraged White to speak to the FBI about allegedly providing Crum with prescription pills illegally several times while Crum was a magistrate, according to documents filed in federal court.
Federal prosecutors say Crum, Thornsbury and others found out White was speaking with the FBI about Crum. Crum, Thornsbury and other officials hatched a plan to encourage White to switch attorneys. If he switched to an attorney who would not encourage cooperation with the FBI, he would receive a lighter sentence, according to federal prosecutors.
White fired West and hired Rumora. He received less time in prison and a smaller fee than he originally faced, according to federal prosecutors.
Thornsbury and Sparks already admitted their roles in the scheme, as part of their plea agreements with federal prosecutors. Crum was shot and killed in April while sitting in his police cruiser in downtown Williamson.
Federal prosecutors say the officials wanted White to switch to an attorney they favored. Tuesday afternoon Rumora denied any close connection with the judge or involvement in the scheme against White.
"That's such a joke. I don't know where that came from," Rumora said.
He said he didn't learn of the allegations until federal prosecutors announced the charges against Thornsbury. He said he wouldn't have represented White if he'd known about the conspiracy.