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Former Mingo magistrate Dallas Toler sentenced to 27 months in prison

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former Mingo County magistrate charged in a widespread corruption investigation was sentenced to 27 months in prison.

Dallas "Big Dal" Toler appeared before U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston at 2 p.m. Toler pleaded guilty in December to illegally registering a felon who was on probation to vote.

Toler, 45, was hit with additional charges last month -- this time for distributing cocaine -- after Williamson police stopped a vehicle with several people in it who were allegedly selling drugs. The vehicle belonged to Toler.

One of them agreed to be a confidential informant. According to previous reports, Toler accepted $850 from the informant for what he thought were proceeds of a drug deal.

Toler's attorney, Joseph Farrell, asked the court to grant his client probation because he doesn't have a criminal history. He said Toler has been punished enough already.

The guideline for Toler's sentence was 6 months. 

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office wanted a longer sentence because of the position of trust that he held and because of the previous charge.

Johnston said the reason for the upward variance in Toler's sentence was to discourage future political corruption in Mingo County. 

Goodwin agreed, saying the sentence sends a clear message that such conduct won't be tolerated.  

In documents filed last week, Farrell said Toler's characteristics "strongly indicate" he would do well on probation. Toler was 15 years old when his father was murdered, Farrell noted, and since then, he has found employment and has worked hard.

Toler has been in jail since Feb. 13, and Farrell said that has been sufficient punishment.

"Throughout this ordeal, the primary concern for Mr. Toler has been the devastating effect his conduct has had on his family," the memorandum states. "Financially and emotionally, Mr. Toler caused damage to the lives of his loved ones and Mr. Toler will spend the rest of his life trying to repair that harm.

"Mr. Toler is already receiving a terrible punishment for his offense."

A memorandum filed by the U.S. Attorney's office argues Toler should face a sentence longer than six months.

"The defendant was a judicial officer who purposely registered a felon to vote in a bid to win a close election, in a county with an egregious history of public corruption," the memorandum states. "Second, the defendant's post-plea conduct calls for a higher sentence still; while on bond, the defendant who not long ago was the chief magistrate of Mingo County, attempted to join the cocaine trade, demonstrating a refusal to accept responsibility and a serious danger to the community."

According to the memorandum, former Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, who faces federal charges of his own, appointed Toler to replace Eugene Crum.

Crum was serving as chief magistrate at the time but resigned to run for sheriff. He later was shot and killed.

Federal prosecutors say Toler ran for election in 2012 as part of the political faction Team Mingo, which also included former prosecutor Michael Sparks and former County Commissioner David Baisden. Both also were running for reelection.

Thornsbury and ex-prosecutor Michael Sparks pleaded guilty for their roles in a scheme to prevent a man from cooperating with an FBI investigation of Sheriff Crum.

Baisden, who also was mentioned in this scheme, pleaded guilty to separate charges of attempting to extort the county's contracted tire provider.

"Several of Team Mingo's primary election races were hotly contested and expected to be close," the memorandum states. "Team Mingo sought an advantage by registering prospective voters whom it believed could be influenced to vote for its candidates."

The memorandum says Toler then registered a felon who was on probation, in hopes of gaining a vote for Team Mingo.

"The defendant's offense ... demands a heightened sentence for two reasons: one, he was an officer of the judiciary, and two, he committed his crime in a place that has endured the evils of public corruption for too long and to an exceptional degree."

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom. ;;;;;;


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