CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The state Supreme Court suspended indicted Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury without pay and suspended his law license pending the outcome of his criminal conspiracy case.
Thornsbury appeared before Federal Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley on Thursday on charges he conspired to plant drugs on a Mingo County man. Federal prosecutors said that man is the husband of Thornsbury’s former mistress and secretary.
State Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury filed an extraordinary complaint against Thornsbury with the judicial investigation commission Thursday. The panel recommended the suspension for Thornsbury and the state Supreme Court agreed.
Retired Cabell County Circuit Judge John Cummings and former state Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh will hear cases in Mingo County. They will be ready to start work Friday morning.
Both Thornsbury and Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden maintained their innocence as they left the federal courthouse in Charleston Thursday evening.
“The truth will be told and I’ll be acquitted. I’m not guilty,” Thornsbury said.
The indictment alleges the judge used his power and influence to try and frame the secretary’s husband after she cut off the affair with the judge.
Commissioner Baisden, who is charged with attempted extortion in a separate case, also said he didn’t do it.
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” he said.
He also had a message for Mingo County residents.
“They know who they elected and I’ve always been an honest man, a hardworking man. I’ll be alright.”
While free on bond, Thornsbury and Baisden were warned not to talk to several witnesses about the case.
Federal Magistrate Judge Tinsley read the list to Thornsbury during his initial appearance. Included on that list are his former secretary and her husband. Thornsbury cannot talk with his good friend and business partner Jarrod Fletcher, the director of Homeland Security in Mingo County. Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks is also off limits.
Commissioner Baisden can continue his work on the county commission but cannot talk with fellow commissioners Greg “Hootie” Smith or John Mark Hubbard about the case.
Both men are scheduled to be back before the magistrate judge next Wednesday morning for their formal arraignments.