Mingo County Corruption News
Will Judge Michael Thornsbury plead guilty in United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia? Will Judge Michael Thornsbury become a federal inmate?
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin today charged Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury in a second conspiracy to deprive a Mingo County resident of his constitutional rights. In a court filing this morning, Goodwin alleged that Thornsbury conspired with other Mingo County elected officials to cover up evidence of illegal drug use and other misconduct by late Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum.
Earlier this year, according to Goodwin, a Mingo County drug defendant began to provide the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with information about misconduct by then Sheriff Crum, including illegal drug use and election law violations. The drug defendant is identified in today’s charging document as “G.W.” Crum learned that G.W., along with G.W.’s attorney, were providing information about Crum to the FBI. Crum and other Mingo elected officials, including Thornsbury, conspired to protect Crum and to stop G.W. from informing to the FBI. They arranged to offer G.W. a favorable plea deal if he would fire his attorney, who was assisting G.W.’s communication with federal authorities, and replace him with an attorney chosen by Crum and the other elected officials.
In the face of this coercion, today’s charging document alleges, G.W. fired his attorney, which the officials involved believed would protect Crum from federal investigation and public embarrassment.
Today’s charge was filed in a court document known as an “information.” A defendant may be charged through an information only with the defendant’s consent, so the filing of an information often indicates that a defendant has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
The investigation is being conducted by the FBI and the West Virginia State Police. Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby and Assistant United States Attorney Haley Bunn are handling the prosecution.
Note: An information is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and County Commissioner David Baisden have been arrested on separate federal criminal charges, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced today. Thornsbury is charged with conspiring to have a romantic rival illegally arrested and manipulating a state grand jury to pursue criminal charges against the same romantic rival. Baisden is charged with using his office to illegally extort a discount from a Mingo County tire store. The charges against the officials are separate and were revealed in two different federal grand jury indictments unsealed today. This press release reflects allegations made in those indictments.
The Indictment of Judge Thornsbury
Judge Thornsbury is charged with conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of a victim identified as “R.W.,” who was the husband of Thornsbury’s secretary. In early 2008, the indictment alleges, Thornsbury began a romantic relationship with his secretary, identified as “K.W.,” which she broke off in June of that year. After K.W. ended the relationship, Thornsbury instructed a co-conspirator to plant illegal drugs underneath R.W.’s pickup truck and then arranged for police to stop R.W. and search for the drugs. The co-conspirator tasked with planting the drugs backed out of the plan at the last minute, thwarting Thornsbury’s scheme.
Thornsbury then tried a different approach, the indictment alleges. R.W. worked at a coal preparation plant, where newly mined coal was processed before shipping. One of the plant’s functions was to remove scrap metal that had fallen into the coal during mining. Thornsbury learned that R.W.’s supervisors had given him permission to salvage scrap items, including drill bits, that were found amid coal at the plant, which were simply discarded if R.W. did not collect them.
Thornsbury secretly instructed a West Virginia state trooper to file a criminal complaint that falsely alleged R.W. was stealing the scrap material from his employer. The trooper resisted, telling Thornsbury that R.W. was allowed to salvage the scrap, but ultimately yielded to Thornsbury’s demands, filing a false criminal complaint that led to R.W.’s arrest for grand larceny in December 2008.
In January 2009, a new Mingo County grand jury was empanelled, and Thornsbury decided to use it to pursue his campaign against R.W. As the county’s sole circuit judge, Thornsbury was empowered to choose the foreperson of the new grand jury. He selected Jarrod Fletcher, Mingo County’s Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, with whom Thornsbury co-owned a commercial real estate business and a wine shop.
By installing Fletcher as grand jury foreperson, Thornsbury was able to secretly co-opt the grand jury’s authority and use it to victimize R.W. In January 2009, Thornsbury created a set of purported grand jury subpoenas that ordered various local companies, including R.W.’s employer, to surrender private documents concerning R.W. He had Fletcher sign these purported subpoenas and send them out in the name of the grand jury. Thornsbury planned to ultimately use the grand jury to charge R.W. criminally.
In March 2009, one of the recipients of Thornsbury’s so-called subpoenas, identified in the indictment as “DBC, Inc.,” asked for more time to respond. Thornsbury entered a court order denying that request, without disclosing that he himself had ghostwritten the subpoena or that he was disqualified from any participation in the criminal case against R.W.
Most of the companies targeted by Thornsbury’s subpoenas handed over the documents demanded, believing that the subpoenas were legitimate. DBC, Inc., however, waged a legal battle against the subpoena it received and eventually discovered the deep business ties between Thornsbury and Fletcher. When DBC, Inc., publicly revealed those ties in a court filing, Thornsbury was forced to abandon his plan to use the grand jury against R.W.
Several years later, in 2012, R.W. was involved in an argument outside a convenience store with two other men. One of the men took a swing at R.W., and the other one drew a gun. The police were called, and the two other men were charged with assault.
Nearly a month after the altercation, however, the charges against the two other men were dismissed and R.W. was charged with assault and battery. Thornsbury, through a messenger, told the county prosecutor to ensure that R.W. received a sentence of six months’ confinement, an extraordinarily harsh punishment even if R.W. had been guilty. Prosecutors in turn offered R.W. a plea agreement that would have confined him for six months. R.W. refused it, and on the eve of trial, the prosecutor dismissed the case, stating that after reviewing the evidence against R.W., he believed the prosecution was not in the interest of justice.
The indictment charges Thornsbury with conspiring to violate R.W.’s right against unreasonable arrest, guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and his right not to be deprived of his liberty without due process of law, guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The indictment also charges that Thornsbury conspired against the companies targeted by the purported grand jury subpoena, specifically, against their Fourteenth Amendment right not to be deprived of their property without due process of law.
Thornsbury, 57, has served as Mingo County’s sole circuit judge since 1997.
The Indictment Against County Commissioner Baisden
County Commissioner David Baisden is charged with attempted extortion against Appalachian Tire. According to the indictment against him, in June 2009, Baisden demanded that Appalachian Tire sell him a set of tires for his personal automobile at a special discounted price available only for government vehicles. When Appalachian Tire refused, Baisden threatened to cut off Appalachian’s county business if he did not get the discount. At the time, Baisden was the Mingo County Commission’s purchasing agent, giving him authority to choose where the county bought tires, and the commission bought thousands of dollars’ worth of tires from Appalachian every year.
Despite the threat, Appalachian refused to give Baisden the special price he demanded. In retaliation, Baisden terminated the commission’s business relationship with Appalachian Tire and switched to a different tire supplier. Since June 2009, Appalachian Tire has lost tens of thousands of dollars in business as a result of Baisden’s reprisal.
Baisden, 66, has been a member of the Mingo County Commission since 2009. Prior to his election as a county commissioner, he was Mingo County’s assessor.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the West Virginia State Police are conducting the investigation.
Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby is in charge of the prosecution.
An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Click here to view a copy of the Thornsbury indictment
Click here to view a copy of the Baisden indictment
As of the census of 2000, there were 28,253 people, 11,303 households, and 8,217 families residing in the county. The population density was 67 people per square mile (26/km²). There were 12,898 housing units at an average density of 30 per square mile (12/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 96.39% White, 2.34% African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.21% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.06% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races. 0.48% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 11,303 households out of which 33.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.20% were married couples living together, 12.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.30% were non-families. 25.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the county, the population was spread out with 24.20% under the age of 18, 9.20% from 18 to 24, 29.10% from 25 to 44, 25.00% from 45 to 64, and 12.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 93.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $21,347, and the median income for a family was $26,581. Males had a median income of $31,660 versus $18,038 for females. The per capita income for the county was $12,445. About 25.90% of families and 29.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 38.90% of those under age 18 and 18.60% of those age 65 or over.
Click here to view a copy of the Thornsbury indictmentHuffington Post Article on Judge Michael Thornsbury
CHARLESTON - A Declaration of Information order was released Thursday morning from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charleston outlining an alleged scheme in Mingo County that was concocted and acted upon to prevent a defendant indicted on drug charges from “spilling the beans” on Eugene Crum, who was Sheriff at the time.
According to the order, George White of Delbarton, was the owner and operator of White’s Signs and was hired by political candidates in the county to make signs and other promotional items for their campaigns. This was a common practice that had occurred for many years.
In 2012, while a candidate for the Office of Sheriff, Crum is said to have ordered several thousand dollars’ worth of signs and promotional items for his campaign from White on credit. After the general election was over in November and Crum was elected Sheriff, his campaign still owed White approximately $3,000 and the business owner advised Crum of the outstanding debt and insisted that it be paid.
When Crum assumed the Sheriff’s position on Jan. 1, 2013, he still owed the $3,000 to White. On or about Jan. 24, 2013, Sheriff Crum arranged for a confidential informant to attempt to purchase three oxycodone tablets from White. The informant went to White’s business and subsequently reported to Crum that he or she had indeed purchased oxycodone tablets from White. Sheriff Crum signed a police report memorializing the controlled purchase, as did Carl David Rockel (Williamson Police Chief C.D. Rockel). The information order states that Rockel was a close associate and political ally of Crum. He had been named as the Drug Task Force Commander for the county after Crum relinquished that position upon becoming Sheriff.
On Jan. 25, Crum and Rockel jointly sought a warrant to search White’s business, based on the Jan. 24th controlled purchase of narcotics. A search warrant was issued that same day.
On Jan. 30, Chief Rockel testified before a Mingo County grand jury that White had unlawfully delivered controlled substances. After hearing that testimony, the grand jury returned an indictment against White for possession of controlled substances with intent to deliver. On Feb. 1, White was arrested on the charges in the indictment against him and Sheriff Crum actively participated in the arrest. At this time, Crum still owed White $3,000.
Following his arrest, White retained attorney Charles “Butch” West to represent him in his defense to the criminal charges. A short time following the indictment and arrest, White and his attorney met with agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). In this meeting, White informed the agents that on multiple occasions prior to his arrest, he unlawfully provided Crum with prescription narcotic pills at Crum’s request. White advised the FBI that these unlawful deliveries occurred while Crum was an elected magistrate. White also advised the FBI of election law violations committed by Crum. After this meeting, Sheriff Crum learned that White had informed the FBI about criminal conduct he had allegedly committed.
Michael Thornsbury, then serving as the sole Circuit Judge in Mingo County, was a close friend, associate and political ally of Crum’s. Sheriff Crum and Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks allegedly informed Thornsbury that White had provided the FBI with incriminating information regarding Crum.
In March of this year, Crum, Sparks, and Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden and others known and unknown to the U.S. Attorney, devised a scheme to prevent White from further communicating to the FBI and others incriminating information regarding Sheriff Crum. Crum, Sparks and Baisden allegedly arranged a meeting with Glenn White, the brother of the defendant. In this meeting, Crum and Baisden, among others, advised White that Judge Thornsbury would give White a light sentence if he fired West as his attorney and replaced him with one favored by the judge, Crum, Baisden and Sparks. Immediately after this meeting took place, Glenn informed his brother, the defendant, of the offer and told him that he must fire West in order for this to happen.
At this time, Crum informed Thornsbury of the scheme to coerce White into firing West and replacing him with another attorney to prevent White from further communicating with the FBI and others regarding incriminating information about him. Thornsbury agreed that it would be in White’s best interest to obtain new counsel, by which the judge meant that the replacement of counsel would result in a lighter sentence for White.
Later that same day, White, along with his attorney Charles West, appeared at a hearing before Thornsbury at which time, West informed the judge that he had been fired as attorney of record for White. Thornsbury then approved Attorney Wests’ replacement with Attorney Ron Rumora, whom Crum, Sparks, and Baisden allegedly wanted to represent White. Sparks is then said to have arranged for a more favorable sentence for White as a reward for him agreeing for replacement of counsel.
After White fired West as his attorney and obtained Rumora as counsel, Crum directed one of his deputies to obtain a statement from White saying that Crum had never provided controlled substances to the sheriff.
In March of 2013, Thornsbury, Crum, Sparks, Baisden and Glenn White, and other known and unknown to the U.S. Attorney did knowingly conspire to injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate, under color of law, a person that is George White, in the free exercise of rights and privileges secured to him by the Constitution and laws of the United States, including his right to counsel of his choosing under the 6th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 241.
It was part of this conspiracy that Crum and Baisden, among others, with the approval of Thornsbury, would and did advise White that he would receive a lighter sentence if he fired West as his attorney and hired an attorney (Rumora), for the purpose of preventing White from further communicating with the FBI and other law enforcement about information regarding Sheriff Crum.
Further information will be provided as to whether those listed in this Information Order are charged with crimes or are indicted as soon as it becomes available.
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