CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A suspended Mingo County judge has submitted his resignation ahead of a hearing in which he was expected to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge.
Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury also has consented to disbarment in a letter to the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel, his attorney Stephen Jory told The Associated Press Wednesday.
The one-sentence resignation letter is addressed to state Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin but was delivered to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. It reads only, "Please accept this letter as my resignation as Judge of the Thirtieth Judicial Circuit in Mingo County, West Virginia."
Thornsbury, 57, is accused of participating in a scheme to protect the reputation of Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum from revelations he'd bought drugs from a campaign sign-maker.
Prosecutors allege Thornsbury and others offered a lighter sentence if the man fired his lawyer and hired one they preferred.
Crum died in April in an unrelated shooting.
In exchange for a guilty plea, prosecutors said they would dismiss charges against Thornsbury in a separate case in which the judge repeatedly tried to frame his former secretary's husband for false crimes to eliminate him as a romantic rival.
In the conspiracy case before U.S. District Court Wednesday afternoon, federal prosecutors said Thornsbury conspired with Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks, Crum and county commissioner David Baisden to spare Crum from paying a $3,000 debt and to protect his career.
Crum didn't want to pay campaign-sign maker George White. White is serving one to 15 years under a plea agreement that prosecutors say he was forced to accept after being ordered to fire his own attorney and accept one chosen by Thornsbury.
Sparks, who denies any wrongdoing, hasn't been charged but faces an Oct. 16 hearing before the state Supreme Court on a motion by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel to suspend his law license.