(Editor’s note: In response to my commentary, Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks sent me the following statement.)

“I have supported and assisted the federal investigation in Mingo County and continue to do so.  I commend the United States Attorney’s Office, FBI and West Virginia State Police for their commitment to the cause of justice.  As a witness in the case, it would be imprudent and improper for me to publicly discuss the case in detail prior to resolution.  However, it is important to note that I promptly notified RW’s counsel of my intent to dismiss the charges after I reviewed the police report, witness statements and video surveillance, which I did not receive until after the plea offer was made to RW by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney [APA] Matthew E. Chandler.  APA Chandler has since advised me that the plea offer terms were specifically requested by the investigating officer.

In summary, I promptly intervened to prevent injustice as soon as I discerned that RW was unjustly charged.”

 

Last week’s federal indictments of Mingo County Judge Michael Thornsbury and County Commissioner David Baisden are consequential steps in breaking up the stronghold of corruption there.

Naturally, Thornsbury, Baisden and everyone else caught up in the federal investigations enjoy a presumption of innocence, but the indictments are notably specific and it is apparent that U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin has files full of evidence and eyewitness testimony.

The indictments prompt other issues that need addressed:

—The state judiciary moved quickly to get Thornsbury out of office and off the payroll, but what about Commissioner Baisden?  The allegation of extortion against Baisden warrants a suspension without pay.  If he’s cleared, he can be paid in full.

—According to the indictment, Mingo County’s director of homeland security and emergency management, Jarrod Fletcher, played a critical role in Judge Thornsbury’s attempt to fix a grand jury. Fletcher should lose his government job.

—State trooper Brandon Moore, alleged to have aided Judge Thornsbury in his schemes to harass Robert Woodruff, the husband of Thornsbury’s paramour, has been put on administrative leave, although he continues to draw a paycheck.  Hopefully, the state police will make quick work of their internal investigation.

—Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks appears to have balked at playing along with Thornsbury’s malefactions.  However, according to the indictment, Sparks did pursue a criminal charge against Woodruff that had been trumped up by Thornsbury. Sparks dropped the charges a day before the trial was to begin. Sparks owes a further explanation to the people of Mingo County about that.

Coincidentally, one day before the Thornsbury indictments, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that Aracoma Contracting, a Williamson employee leasing firm, arranged cash withdrawals from the Williamson branch of the Bank of Mingo.

Federal investigators charge two Aracoma employees used millions of dollars in cash withdrawals to pay bribes and cash to employees to avoid taxes and workers’ compensation insurance premiums. According to the U.S. Attorney, “Bank of Mingo routinely failed to file a currency transaction report, as required by law.”

So the Bank of Mingo has some explaining to do as well.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Gazette-Mail reports on allegations that Eugene Crum, the Mingo County Sheriff who was murdered earlier this year, was once the subject of a state police investigation for sexual assault.

The paper reported that according to the state police report, “Crum admitted to having sex with the woman in the back seat of a Delbarton police cruiser, while two Delbarton police officers listened from the front seat at 2:30 a.m. Dec. 9, 2001.” Crum was the police chief of Delbarton at the time.

The woman, who was 19 at the time, initially wanted to pursue rape charges, but later changed her mind.

Crum was shot to death earlier this year while sitting in his police cruiser in Williamson. Tennis Maynard is charged with the murder. The Gazette-Mail reported the sexual assault allegations against Crum could be used as evidence in the trial.

A civil society is built upon the rule of law. No individual is above the law and those in government positions of power must act with restraint. When breakdowns occur, as witnessed in Mingo County, people lose confidence in their public servants and community leaders.

The good and decent people of Mingo County have been shaken by the revelations of last week, but hopefully there is now a chance for revival and restoration.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  • im not an inbred pillbilly

    why cant they all go the way of scum....whoops i mean crum...justice served in his case....good riddence scum and i do mean SCUM

  • NorthernGal

    Who is going to pay for the Mingo corruption? Are the state taxpayers liable for people who live in a county who obviously don't vote, or don't care who they vote for or maybe sell their vote? Or maybe they vote straight ticket. I hope the good people of Mingo County have to foot the bill that reviewing all the court cases is going to cost. And why is the state cop not arrested? His loss of public trust is the worst and a slap in the face for the many troopers out there who risk their lives for us.

  • Ron

    Not to pile on here, but isn't this partially due to the WV trend of glorifying criminal behavior?
    This is the State that voted for a convicted felon in a national primary.
    This is the State that has a massive criminal family (White's) that a documentary was made detailing them committing various crimes and what happened? Nothing.
    The WV State Police need to clean house. This is not the first incident involving their incredibly poor behavior. When Sherriff Crum was shot, people just didn't ask the right questions. Another WV hallmark.
    Most people would not assassinate a LEO at random. You have to know that this is a minimum of a life sentence. Not something done lightly. I feel for the family and am sorry it happened, but you have to look a little deeper. Someone was really mad at him for some reason. Now we find out all of the other issues and it makes me wonder.
    This is a recurring theme in what is otherwise a decent state.
    When is the Governor going to weigh in on this, or, is he in a "glass house" situation?
    By the way, how is this not a RICO case?

  • HighwayRobbery

    It is not only the WV Southern Counties... Tyler County, Sistersvile WV... Is beside itself with city official corruption and wide spread sweeping things under the rug.

  • steve

    just think.only 54 more counties to go/...................

  • HMAALLTHEWAY

    Abraham Lincoln Said, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

    This sums it up I think.

  • Shamus Berry

    Tru

  • ShinnstonGuy

    "No individual is above the law." Could you send that to Congress and their minions known as staffers? I actually had a staffer tell me I had to go and cater to a House members every whim (at a party I was hosting), and I said, "That person can go get a drink and mingle just like everyone else. They are elected; they aren't gods."

    If Goodwin takes them all down, perhaps then he will have the name recognition to run for office!

    • Wowbagger

      Good point! This conservative, bordering on libertarian, now has a MUCH higher opinion of the upstanding character of Booth Goodwin as a result of this story.

  • ConservativeRealist

    Political and/or public corruption has been rampant in Mingo County for years. Anyone remember the Fire Chief in Kermit selling marijuana out of the fire station and it making the front page of the New York Times? There is a littany of rumors and innuendos about this or that shady deal going on in the, "Free State of Mingo". The only thing that will change the situation is if there is a cultural change prompted by everyone involved going to jail and being held accountable. Plea bargaining only reinforces the concept that, although frowned upon, it still isn't really, "bad".

    • Shamus Berry

      Dude, whole families are the magisrtates, judges, county clerks, sherriffs, the culture doesnt need to change. The idiot voters need to vote in honest people, not because its their first cousin or they let a family member off on a charge. Put up political signs in your yard, get in a lil trouble, tell the judge youll put his signs up and vote for him, youll pretty much get off unless you killed soneone. And even then there has to be tons of evidence to charge a great citizen of the great county of mingo

      • Justice Calls

        How can a drunk driver get away with murder using a vehice when he drunk. Josh Miller got a misdemeanor when he was involved in vehicular homicide. Is the Supreme Court going to go back and look at the Josh Miller case? Somebody should give this family closure.

        • Scott

          Wasn't it a one car accident and everybody in the car drunk .It's a very sad thing I agree should not have been drinking and driving but your family member made a decision to get in the car my prayers are for your family but the truth is he shouldn't have been in the car

  • wirerowe

    I think one conclusion from the inference would be that they are limousine liberals. The limiting of the access is the trend more so than the Charleston newspapers taking the high road. Unfortunately this will become the rule rather than the exception. The Washington Post, New York times and the Wall street journal and a couple of other West Virginia papers are already doing it. You can usually google the headline and get the full text for the limited access articles.

  • Wirerowe

    Most of the media in the state with the exception of the Gazette is conservative. While the Gazette editorial board is beyond liberal the owners several decades ago crushed the efforts of the workers to organize.

    • Hop'sHip

      So what should we conclude from this historical event that took place over 40 years ago? I don't read the Gazette (and Daily Mail) much anymore since they started to limit free access. But I can understand why they need to do this. It would be much easier to survive by currying favor of big money interests and refusing to present anything that might make those interests unhappy.

  • Wirerowe

    The " other guy" would never have prevailed..

  • Wirerowe

    The gazette regularly picks up on it, I don't expect metro news or the West Virginia media outlets to make this the focus of the reporting because of their direct involvement in aspects of this. Besides everyone would accuse them of not being objective. Although my view is not shared on this blog I think that the Mingo county charges are significant and newsworthy,
    Hopefully all aspects of the WVU media deal will have their day in the sun as well.

    • Hop'sHip

      OK. valid points. But I do think it gives us a picture of what would have happened if the last Senate race would have turned out differently and if the other guy, whose name cannot be mentioned without being subject to "moderation", would have prevailed. I still think that concentration of media power is a big problem, especially in a small state. And you know that if the majority of people who post here had their way, the Gazette wouldn't exist.

  • mntnman

    OK, so there are bad people holding office in Mingo County. They abused their power. OK, so its bad, We get it. Its wrong, We get it. Interestingly this was not the political corruption story it was purported to be. Just plain ole fashioned greed, hubris and scorned love. Human traits raising their ugly head in politics. Nothing new here. Hoppy, is there nothing else going on in the world that interests you?? I hope you have something fresh for tomorrow, what with all the issues we face as a society.

    • bulldog95

      I wonder if you would be singing the tune of "move along, nothing to see here" if those elected had an R beside their name.

      Were you singing the move on, nothing new when that one guy had a wide stance in the mens room? I bet you sat at McDonalds for a week talking about it.

      • mntnman

        Nope. I care not whether its an (r) of a (d). Time to move on.

        As for the wide stance controversy, I found it to be prurient news. It was personal to that individual -- of course he was a hypocrite for railing against homosexuals at the same time he was seeking male companionship. But I really don't care about his personal life so long as he is acting legally.

        Your mistake is assuming too much about me...you think you got me pegged, but you don't. And I don't eat at McDonald's. I'm a Wendy's guy.

        • bulldog95

          I remember you saying something a couple of months ago about people sitting around a table at McDonalds complaining about something and how you threw in your 2 cents to "correct them."

  • Wirerowe

    Hops I would ask you to take off your glasses when you pick on my buddy Hoppy. But I agree 100 percent that money in college football is making it harder to stomach. If they would give some of that to the players in an equitable fashion it would be more palatable.

    • mntnman

      They get a full ride. opportunity to get a degree for free, they are fed, clothed and housed. Those of us who had to pay for it all find it disquieting that that is not enough. Most schools lose money on athletics, so lets spend more money now. Gheez.

    • Hop'sHip

      How am I picking on Hoppy? Don't you agree that this is a huge story in the state that is being inadequately covered? Isn't that a result of the concentration of media power in a small state?