CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury has been indicted on charges ranging from trying to frame the husband of a lover to tampering with a jury.
The office of U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin unsealed the indictments Thursday, hours after unsealing charges of attempted extortion by Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden.
A federal grand jury handed down the indictments Wednesday. The indictments allege Thornsbury, 57, tried to plant drugs on the husband of his former secretary, with whom he had an affair about five years ago.
The judge, who served as Mingo's sole circuit judge since 1997, was charged with conspiracy against a person's rights against unreasonable arrest, violating a person's right to liberty without due process of law, and conspiracy to violate a company's right not to be deprived of their property without due process.
The state Supreme Court voted Thursday to suspend Thornsbury without pay and to suspend his law license.
He began the affair with his secretary, who is not named in the indictment but later was identified as Kim Woodruff, in early 2008. Thornsbury insisted during the relationship she leave her husband and told her he was unfaithful and used drugs, according to the indictment. Instead, she broke the relationship off with Thornsbury in June 2008.
"When his secretary ended the relationship citing her marriage, Judge Thornsbury set off on a campaign to persecute his secretary's husband, his romantic rival," Goodwin said in a press conference. "In the process he corrupted the system of justice in Mingo County for his own nefarious purposes."
Thornsbury continued to try to rekindle the romance while allegedly plotting against the husband, also not named in the indictment but later identified as Robert Woodruff.
The Woodruffs are represented by Charleston attorney Michael Callaghan, and did not want to comment. Callaghan said they are beginning the process of "putting their lives back together and seek their own justice."
Callaghan applauded the U.S. Attorney's office for prosecuting "what appears terrible abuse of a public office." He represented Robert Woodruff through the "frivolous" cases brought about by Thornsbury's alleged schemes.
"While I was successful in getting both charges dismissed, my client should never have been placed under the stress of being charged criminally, nor should he have spent time in jail for crimes he did not commit," Callaghan said in an email.
"When the allegations came to light today that the charges were bogus and the work of Judge Thornsbury for personal gain, my client was both shocked and saddened."
In 2008, Thornsbury allegedly told business partner Jarrod Fletcher, who also was Mingo County's director of Emergency Services and Homeland Security, that Robert Woodruff was dealing drugs. He also told Fletcher to tell a member of the State Police and others about the drugs, according to the indictment.
"It included corrupting a member of the West Virginia State Police, who at his behest - at Judge Thornsbury's behest - procured a criminal complaint and an arrest warrant and arrested Thornsbury's rival based on information Judge Thornsbury and the trooper knew to be false," Goodwin said.
"When that effort was eventually thwarted Judge Thornsbury appointed a close associate as the foreperson of a state grand jury and counseled him on how to take that grand jury rogue."
Thornsbury allegedly told Jeff Cline, another close friend, to plant a box filled with some kind of illegal drug under the frame of Robert Woodruff's truck. He called Cline into his office and showed him a metal box with magnets attached to it containing a plastic bag of illegal drugs, according to the documents.
Once the drugs were planted, Thornsbury was to call Fletcher who would then tell Trooper Brandon Moore, who would then pull Woodruff over.
That followed a different alleged scheme to indict Robert Woodruff on charges of stealing from his employer, the indictment states. The charges were later dropped when Thornsbury and others were disqualified from the case.
In early 2009, Thornsbury appointed Fletcher as foreman of a grand jury. Even though the prosecuting attorney, Michael Sparks, had disqualified himself from the case, Thornsbury told Fletcher to move forward with an indictment on Woodruff, according to court documents.
Moore testified Woodruff was stealing from the company, but federal investigators say Moore knew parts of his testimony were false.
Fletcher and the grand jury issued subpoenas with the idea that Thornsbury could use the information to pursue a criminal charge against Woodruff, the indictment said.
One company that was subpoenaed fought the judge's order after they discovered his ties with Fletcher, the indictment states.