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Mingo County investigator says former judge dodged him

By Andrea Lannom, Legal affairs writer

A Mingo County private investigator wants a federal judge to extend the normal amount of time to serve court documents to a defendant, claiming former Mingo Judge Michael Thornsbury delayed efforts by repeatedly dodging him.

Mingo residents Donald Ray Stevens and wife Ruby Stevens originally filed a lawsuit Oct. 30 in Kanawha County Circuit Court alleging several former county officials framed him and caused him to shut down his Williamson private investigator agency.

They filed the lawsuit against Thornsbury, former prosecutor Michael Sparks, former Williamson Police Chief David Rockel, the state Supreme Court, the Mingo County Commission, the city of Williamson and two unknown people Stevens said attacked him in his home.

The case later was transferred to federal court, where it has remained even though Stevens made a motion to take it back to circuit court.

Since the filing, Sparks, Rockel, the Mingo County Commission, and the state Supreme Court have asked the court to dismiss the case or to dismiss them as defendants because of immunity in their positions and because they say the lawsuit didn’t state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

The former judge, who pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge, admitted his role in a scheme to stop a man from speaking with the FBI about alleged drug activity by since-slain Sheriff Eugene Crum.

He is scheduled for sentencing April 21.

Sparks pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in connection to his role in the scheme. Sparks is scheduled to be sentenced April 24.

Tuesday’s motion, filed by Stevens’ attorney David Barney Jr., noted service of process was supposed to be done by Feb. 27. However, the motion says attorneys weren’t able to serve Thornsbury until March 23, 24 days after the 120-day timeframe.

The motion states attorneys tried to serve Thornsbury several times. It said in November, counsel spoke with a federal agent who said the federal probation office should be able to serve Thornsbury.

The next month, attorneys contacted the federal probation office but were told the office couldn’t serve him.

They then wanted to serve him before his originally scheduled sentencing on Jan. 13 but then the sentencing was delayed until April 21, which was outside the 120-day timeframe.

Counsel later hired Michael Baisden, a Williamson process server. However, the motion asserts Baisden didn’t have an easy time when he tried to serve the former judge. The motion asserts Thornsbury “actively avoided” service.

“On multiple occasions, Defendant Thornsbury would not answer the door to his residence where he was hiding-out when Mr. Baisden knocked on the door, despite the fact that his truck was parked at the location and he could be heard inside,” the motion asserts. “Similarly, on multiple occasions, no one would answer the door to his family residence where he had been served in other cases when Mr. Baisden knocked on the door.”

The motion further asserts there was one time when Thornsbury led Baisden on a “high speed vehicle chase in a residential neighborhood” in attempts to avoid him.

“On yet another occasion, Mr. Baisden was waiting for Defendant Thornsbury at his residence and when Defendant Thornsbury drove up to the residence and saw Mr. Baisden, he sped past the residence and nodded to Mr. Baisden as he tried to get him to stop so that he could serve him with the documents.”

The motion asserts Baisden had to take “extreme measures” to serve him, at one point hiding at Thornsbury’s son-in-law’s house and driving a different vehicle.

“Defendant Thornsbury’s wife served as a look-out to scan the scene before Mr. Thornsbury emerged from the residence, then Mr. Baisden came out of his hiding spot and served Defendant Thornsbury. Defendant Thornsbury became very agitated and drew back his fist as if to strike Mr. Baisden, but then accepted the service.”

Tuesday’s motion seeks to extend the amount of time allotted to serve a defendant to March 23, when Thornsbury was served. If the court doesn’t want to extend the time, attorneys ask to amend the suit to re-add Thornsbury as a defendant.

This isn’t the only civil lawsuit Thornsbury has faced. There are two others filed by Robert and Kim Woodruff. Kim’s lawsuit was filed in circuit court and Robert’s is in federal court.

The lawsuits allege Thornsbury wrote a love letter to Kim, told her they were meant to be together forever, tried to frame Robert and threatened to fire Kim if she didn’t have sex with him.

The U.S. Attorney’s office originally charged Thornsbury with repeatedly trying to frame Robert in an attempt to encourage Kim to resume a romantic relationship with him.

Currently, parties are waiting on the state Supreme Court to decide whether to grant or deny Thornsbury’s request for a writ of prohibition. Thornsbury alleges the statute of limitations has run out for Kim to file her lawsuit.

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


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