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Mingo County commissioner arrested on federal charges

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Mingo County commissioner is charged with attempting to use his authority to persuade a store to give him a discount on tires for his personal automobile.

David Baisden, 66, is charged with attempted extortion after he allegedly tried to get an Appalachian Tire store in or near Williamson to sell him tires at the discounted rate for county vehicles, according to an indictment from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office.

Mingo County already purchased tires from the store at the "government price" from at least 2007 through June 2009, according to the indictment.

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In addition to his work as commissioner, Baisden also worked as purchasing agent for the county and chose which suppliers the county did business with.

The special rate was not available for personal vehicles, according to the policies of both Appalachian Tire and Goodyear. It was "substantially below" the regular tire price, the indictment states, though exact figures aren't given. 

"Commissioner Baisden threatened that if Appalachian did not give him the price on those tires that he would discontinue the business of the county with Appalachian," Goodwin said during a press conference.

"Appalachian stuck to their position and Baisden made good on his threat and moved the county's business, the county's tire business, to yet another vendor.

"His retaliatory move has cost Appalachian tens of thousand of dollars since 2009."

In June 2009, Baisden directed commission employee Jerry Colegrove to purchase tires at the special government price for a vehicle Baisden shared with his wife, according to the indictment.

Appalachian refused to sell the tires at the discounted price after learning they would be used on Baisden's personal vehicle.

Colegrove then told the company that Baisden was "a power official" and the retailer could risk losing the county's business if it did not sell Colegrove the tires, according to the indictment. Appalachian still refused.

Around June 15, 2009, Baisden phoned the tire store and informed them Mingo County would no longer purchase tires from the company.

Baisden then instructed Colegrove to find another tire supplier for the county, according to the indictment.

The indictment says Baisden "did attempt to obstruct, delay, and affect commerce and the movement of an article and commodity in commerce, in the Southern District of West Virginia and elsewhere, by extortion under color of official right."

It states Baisden is in violation of Title 18 of the U.S Code, section 1951.

That section defines extortion as the "obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right."

At no point did Baisden actually receive a discount, the indictment repeatedly states.

The hammer incident

Last year, Baisden was involved in an incident that left two men dead and Baisden's half-brother seriously injured.

On Oct. 12, Baisden's half-brother, Alfred Curry, 73, got into a fight with his roommate, Phillip Gilman, 43, at their house in Elk Creek near Delbarton.

Gilman attacked Curry with a hammer, chasing the older man into the road outside their home. A passing motorist found Curry and called Baisden.

The county commissioner arrived a short time later in his county-owned Ford F250 pickup. When he jumped out to tend to his brother, Gilman got in the driver's seat and took off, running over Curry as he sped away.

Gilman returned a short time later - parking the truck over Curry's body - and then got into a fight with Baisden, who fired his gun at the ground in an attempt to scare Gilman away.

Gilman ran off, but when police found him a short time later, he charged at them with his hammer. Officers gave Gilman multiple commands to stop, to put his hands up, to get on the ground and to drop the hammer.

He didn't, and officers opened fire. Gilman was killed at the scene.

Charges

U.S. Marshals led Baisden into U.S. Magistrate Dwane Tinsley's courtroom in chains Thursday afternoon. Baisden, who was represented by Charleston attorney Jim Cagle, was released on $10,000 unsecured bond.

He was ordered not to have any contact with witnesses in the case, which initially included Mingo commissioners John Mark Hubbard and Greg "Hootie" Smith, but Cagle argued that Baisden retained his duty to the people as an elected official and still had to attend commission meetings.

Steve Ruby, counsel to the U.S. Attorney, said he had no problem with Baisden having contact with Hubbard and Smith, as long as they didn't speak of the case, which Tinsley approved.

Baisden is due back in court at 10 a.m. Wednesday for arraingment. He remains a county commissioner.

Writers Dave Boucher and Ashley B. Craig contributed to this report.


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