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Public defenders recommended for Mingo judgeship

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A public defender is likely to soon become the lone circuit court judge in Mingo County.

The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission submitted the names of Teresa McCune and Jonathan "Duke" Jewell to the governor's office as potential candidates for the job once held by disgraced Judge Michael Thornsbury.

McCune and Jewell both work in the Mingo County Public Defender's Office. McCune is the chief public defender and has worked in the office more than 20 years. Jewel also works as a public defender.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin released the names Tuesday evening.

The two were chosen from a pool of six candidates after the commission met Monday. The commission met and interviewed all six candidates and recommended the "best-qualified persons," according to a letter from commission Chairwoman Debra Scudiere to Tomblin.

"I am very proud of the continuing good work of the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission and am pleased that the commission was able to offer to the governor solid choices for the vacancy on the 30th Judicial Circuit," Scudiere said in an email.

The commission was allowed to submit up to five names for consideration.

Other candidates included Mingo Family Court Judge Mike Thompson, assistant prosecutor and county commission attorney Glen Rutledge, local attorney and Williamson Municipal Judge Steven Knopp and private attorney Robert Carlson.

Former state Supreme Court candidate Letitia "Tish" Chafin initially applied but then withdrew her name. She cited the strength of the applicant pool and a desire to spend time with family.

The judgeship came under fire recently with Thornsbury on the bench: Federal prosecutors accuse him of repeatedly trying to frame the husband of an ex-lover and scheming to thwart an FBI investigation into since-slain Sheriff Eugene Crum.

Thornsbury was suspended after prosecutors leveled the jilted lover accusations in August. He resigned in October hours before pleading guilty to his role in the conspiracy involving depriving a man of his rights to be represented by the attorney of his choosing.

He's scheduled for sentencing in January. Prosecutors plan to drop the second set of charges in accordance with Thornsbury's plea agreement.

Senior status judges John Cummings and Thomas McHugh have shared responsibility for Mingo Circuit Court since Thornsbury's suspension.

Tomblin is not bound to appoint either McCune or Jewell. A spokeswoman didn't say when the governor expected to make a decision.

The appointee will serve until a judge is elected in the fall of 2014. That person will serve out the remainder of Thornsbury's term, until 2016.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or Follow him at



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