Feds charge Mingo judge Thornsbury in drug-related conspiracy
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Already indicted on federal charges, Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury is now accused of working with slain sheriff Eugene Crum and others to try and prevent a man from continuing to tell the FBI about drug allegations against Crum, according to a federal information filed Thursday.
Thornsbury will plead guilty to the charges outlined in the federal document, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby filed a motion Thursday afternoon to schedule a guilty plea in the matter.
The judge was previously indicted on charges of corrupting the legal process in repeated attempts to frame the husband of an ex-lover. Goodwin declined to say if Thornsbury would plead guilty in that case.
The information — essentially the same as an indictment — states Thornsbury, Crum, Mingo Prosecutor Michael Sparks and others worked on a plan to keep a man, referred to as "G.W.", from speaking with the FBI.
That includes Mingo County Commissioner Dave Baisden, according to the information. On Wednesday, Goodwin confirmed Baisden would plead guilty in a different case involving the attempted extortion of Mingo County's tire provider.
In the newly revealed case, Crum, Thornsbury, Sparks, Baisden, "and others known and unknown to the United States Attorney devised a scheme to prevent G.W. from further communicating to the FBI and others incriminating information regarding Sheriff Crum," the information states.
G.W. has been identified as George White.
White owns a sign-making business in Mingo County and is often hired to provide signs for political candidates during election season, the information states. Crum used White's signs for his own 2012 campaign: he defeated James Smith by about 600 votes.
Crum spent more than $6,000 on signs and bumper stickers from White's Sign in Delbarton in late 2011 and early 2012, according to campaign finance statements filed with the Mingo County Clerk's Office.
After the election Crum still owed White $3,000, the information states. In January, Crum arranged for an informant to buy Oxycodone pills, a powerful prescription pain reliever, from White, according to the information.
The informant bought the pills, and Crum, along with then-Williamson Police Chief Dave Rockel, secured an indictment to arrest White.
Federal investigators argue White's choice of attorney after his arrest plays a significant role in the subsequent actions of Crum, Thornsbury and the other elected officials.
White hired an attorney called "C.W." in the indictment.
"C.W." has been identified as Charles "Butch" West, the former mayor of Williamson. In 2012 West lost handily to Sparks in the Democratic primary election for prosecutor. He is now spearheading a campaign calling on Sparks to resign.
White and West met with the FBI shortly after White's arrest. In the meeting, White told the federal agents he gave Crum prescription pills illegally multiple times at Crum's request. White said the deliveries happened when Crum was a magistrate, before he was elected sheriff, according to the information.
After learning White met with the FBI, Crum, Sparks, Baisden and potentially others met with White's brother, Glenn White. The officials wanted to try and prevent the arrested White from giving more information to the FBI.
As a bargain, Crum and Baisden told Glenn White that Thornsbury would give his brother a lighter sentence if he fired his attorney and hired one favored by the judge, the information states.
Crum and Baisden told Thornsbury, who agreed "it would be in (White's) best interest to obtain new counsel, by which Judge Thornsbury meant that the replacement of counsel would result in a lighter sentence for (White)," according to the information.
White fired his attorney, hired a new one and Sparks arranged for a lighter sentence as a reward, according to the information.
White's new attorney was Ronald Rumora, a former prosecutor.
The information never states why hiring the new attorney would prevent White from speaking with the FBI, other than to say the officials approved of the new attorney.
Crum also told a deputy to get a statement from White that White never gave Crum any drugs, the information states. The information doesn't clarify if the statement was actually ever made.
The alleged misconduct took place in March, according to the indictment. In April, Crum was shot and killed while sitting in his car in downtown Williamson. Tennis Melvin Maynard has been charged with murder and other offenses in connection with Crum's death.
James Smith, who lost to Crum in the 2012 primary election, was recently appointed sheriff by the Mingo County Commission. He took over for Crum's wife, Rosie Crum, who was appointed sheriff upon her husband's death. Rosie Crum recently stepped down from the position.
In an interview Thursday with the Charleston Gazette, Rosie Crum and her daughter denied the allegations against Eugene Crum. They accused Thornsbury of trying to deflect guilt onto the late Crum, according to the Gazette.
Sparks announced Wednesday he would step down as prosecutor in the Maynard case. Using legal jargon, Sparks said he'd recently learned new information that would harm his ability to prosecute the case and could affect sentencing.
Thursday morning Sparks called the Daily Mail to clarify the new information might affect sentencing in other cases, and had nothing to do with the allegations against Maynard.
When asked about the federal information, Sparks said some of the details within the document played a role in his decision to ask to be disqualified from the case.
Sparks declined to speak to the accusations against him until he had a chance to read the document. He did not answer several phone calls later Thursday.
Later Thursday the Office of Disciplinary Counsel asked the state Supreme Court to immediately suspend Sparks' law license. Citing the new information and the other indictment against Thornsbury, it asked the court to suspend Sparks' license until it could complete an investigation.
A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court said in a news release the court met Thursday to discuss the matter. She expects the court will release its decision in the case today.
Sparks spiritedly defended himself in an interview with the Williamson Daily News. He said he did nothing wrong, and accused Thornsbury of trying to frame him.
Mingo County Commissioner Greg "Hootie" Sparks said in an emailed statement he is "absolutely shocked" by the new allegations and expects Baisden to step down as commissioner.
"I have been informed that as a condition of Commissioner Baisden's plea agreement he will be resigning his position prior to his sentencing," Smith said.
"When this vacancy occurs the commission will begin accepting applications (and) conduct interviews as we did for the recent sheriff appointment."
Goodwin declined to say if he planned to bring charges against Sparks, Baisden or anyone else mentioned in the information filed Thursday. He said Thornsbury is now cooperating with investigators, and the investigation is ongoing.