VETERAN lawyer Menis Ketchum drove to Williamson in January 2009 to swear into office a man he said may be the best trial judge in West Virginia, Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury.
Ketchum returned a favor because a few days earlier Thornsbury made the 80-mile drive up Corridor G to swear Ketchum in as a state Supreme Court justice.
Thornsbury may very well be the best trial judge in the state.
But the judge also may be a felon who tried to frame a lover's husband to get rid of him in a plot stolen from the Old Testament.
Last week, federal prosecutors charged Thornsbury 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.
Federal officials also indicted a fellow Democrat, Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden, who allegedly used his office to try to extort a discount from Appalachian Tire in an unrelated scandal.
West Virginians were relieved that these are not election-related scandals. In the 1980s, Sheriff Johnie Owens sold his office for $100,000.
The scandals also have statewide impact. Prosecutors say the judge enlisted Brandon Moore, the state's Trooper of the Year in 2009, to aid him in setting up Woodruff on false charges in 2008.
To be sure, there are good elected officials in Mingo. The late Sheriff Eugene Crum dismissed a larceny case against Woodruff when Crum was a magistrate. Also, the prosecutor refused to pursue a set-up assault charge against Woodruff.
And corruption is far from unique to West Virginia. Just last week a judge sentenced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., and his wife to prison for pilfering $750,000 from his campaign funds. The list of elected officials around the country convicted in one year might well fill this page.
But in Williamson, at least two officials apparently acted like Boss Hogg from "The Dukes of Hazzard."
They did so because they were too comfortable in their positions.
However, these indictments should provide an attitude adjustment to those who use public office for private gain.
If not, they may wind up like Judge Thornsbury on the other side of the bench in court.