(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

  • 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.

    • 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?

    • 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

    Hmmm. Three straight commentaries about the sad situation in Mingo County. But are we just trying to ignore the elephant in the room? With less than two weeks before the start of WVU's football season, there seems to be a dearth of news about the media coverage for the games. There has been hardly anything here on what calls itself the "Voice of West Virginia". I think one thing West Virginia might be interested in is what if the WVRC action seeking an injuction against the implimentation of the WVU - IMG agreement is successful? What are the implications? Doesn't this warrant some discussion? You won't find it covered here apparently. I just learned yesterday reading the Charleston paper that WVRC ownership is taking control of WCLG and furthering their dominance of north central West Virginia media. Isn't anyone troubled by this, especially since WVRC seems to be conducting some sort of vendetta against our flagship higher educational institution?

    • TD

      What will Hoppy do with is new found freedom on fall Saturdays? Perhaps he will discover, as I did a few years back, there are much better things to do on Saturdays in the fall in WV than be tied up with Mountaineer football. After all, it's consistently the best weather we get all year, enjoy it Hop.

      • Hop'sHip

        Well there are billboards up here imploring people to "continue to follow the Mountaineers with Hoppy and friends", so apparently they will still be doing pregame and postgame coverage, although I wonder if it will include Tony, who seems stuck in the middle of this mess. I still enjoy college football, even though I agree that it is getting harder and harder to do so as it becomes more and more driven by money interests. Time to chime in, GregG.

        • GregG

          Two rich egotistical republicans (Luck and Mr. Censor) locked in a power struggle.......can't say who will win, but I'm sure the students, players and fans will end up footing the bill for this war.

    • CaptainQ

      You have to admit, Hop'ship, the 'media circus' going on in Mingo County at the moment is a lot more interesting than the game of 'corporate chess' being played between WVRC and WV Media owned by 'he that shall not be named to avoid my comment from getting censored'.

      Perhaps this week Hoppy may do a commentary on that situation, maybe not. It could be that 'he that shall not be named' might not WANT that situation covered on his radio network. Remember the two rules of business: Rule #1, the boss is always right, Rule #2, when the boss is wrong.. well, you know the rest.

      • Hop'sHip

        Well I guess you're right, Q. Just like we would rather dissect the corruption of the downtrodden in Detroit than examine the shenanigans of the real power brokers on Wall Street.

  • Bigfish

    The biggest part of this story is Aracoma Contracting and their relationship with Alpha Natural Resources and Patriot Coal and other coal companies. Since the privatization of workers compensation in 2006,labor contracting firms have provided contract labor to mining companies and have apparently avoided paying social security contributions and workers compensation premiums. Do you really believe that the mining companies did not know what was going on? I am sure they knew that their production costs were considerably less. Another example of corporate greed.

    • ConservativeRealist

      Surely you jest Bigfish...money being behind all of this sense of impugnity?-?-? I am shocked!!!

  • ConservativeRealist

    Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see Hoppy mentioning that Harry Keith White, House Finance Chair, is the President of the Bank of Mingo I do believe...

    • Wowbagger

      Small world isn't it! And even a smaller state.

    • Wirerowe

      My thoughts exactly and this is certainly part of it.

    • mntrbob

      I think he is the Chairman at this time. Why would there not be charges filed? There are some serious penalties for this type of behavior.

    • Sherrie

      Good one!

  • Wowbagger

    This sort of situation is a good example of what happens when a competitve two party system no longer exists. A similar situation can develop where two parties get too comfortable like in Washington these days. We the people become the victims.

    I am not arguing for a change to Republican rule. I am arguing for a competitive two (or more) party system where the competitive environment keeps the politicos more or less in check.

    "It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." -- David Brin

    • Hillbilly

      One place to start with fixing all this is with TERM LIMITS!! Judges, magistrates, commissioners... anyone voted in or appointed into office.

      • elvira carey

        yes i agree they should not be able to run for office but one term and that is the limit and not to go to another posistion would they gain power. they need also to look into micheal sparks record and that a check should be done on any one running for office just like applying for a job. this is the job for the mingo politicians it makes me sick to know how much corruption is going on in the court house.

  • Jim N Charleston

    Skippy,

    The biggest question I want answered about Mingo County is is the "Hatfield McCoy White Lightening" TV Series real or not? We the watching public deserve to know. We need to put Kanawha County Commissioner & part time TV critic Kent Carper on the case. His TV prowess exposed that Buckwild may not have been 100% on the up & up. His observation skills are only trumped by his own self image.

    Also there is word on the hollows that American Pickers may have seeded the picking when they visited Williamson for their show a few years back. This is another job for Kent Carper.

    As for any further questions about political corruption in Mingo, McDowell, Boone, Lincoln, Logan, and let's put Raleigh County in there too, the answer is yes. Always has been & always will be. Its why Jim moved North to CTown. You have to be a Complete & Total Moron not to know of political corruption in WV.

    • 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.

  • GregG

    Hoppy, these kinds of actions are not limited to Mingo County. These types of "crimes" take place in every county. Abuse of power and greed is rampant. From the local elementary school to the our elected government offices in DC, corruption and abuse of power is common place. Sure it is great to see a few of them get caught, but in the big scheme of things, this is nothing. Somewhere today some kid will get to be the "starter" because his parents drive a BMW. Some officer will give the "pretty girl" a warning ticket. And some elected official will "reward" the business that donated to his/her campaign fund. Just another day Hoppy, just another day.

    • CaptainQ

      +1

    • Wirerowe

      Greg you may be right. But the tentacles of the conspiracy particularly in the case of the judge reach out wide and touch a lot of power groups. The cultural of silence about this case is also disconcerting. IMHO both cases are bad abuses of power and in some part are a result of the local culture which is not your average culture. Everybody does it is not a defense and I don' t believe everybody does it to this degree.

      • GregG

        Trust me Wirerowe, my comment was not in "defense" of. My comment is more of a........that's what I have been telling you people. Power and greed is killing this country, Be it some sleazy deputy getting girls in the back of a police car or the business tactics of big corporations.

    • Sherrie

      A+++

  • CaptainQ

    Well Hoppy, it appears that the indictments of Thornsbury and Baisden are the meer 'tip of the iceburg' for political corruption in Mingo County. I wish I could say I'm surprised, but considering that was Mingo County involved, I'm not. The prospect that this sort of behavior could be the 'norm' in many WV counties should frighten every law abiding citizen of this state. Will it have to take MORE Federal probes to finally end the generational corruption that seems to dominate WV counties?

    Obviously Hoppy, all of the people you mentioned in your commentary should be held accountable for their actions in a court of law, all except for Crum who is no longer alive to face the allegations against him. Although dead people can VOTE in WV, they obviously cannot be ARRESTED or put on trial in this state.

    The bottom line is this, those elected (or appointed) officials in the counties of WV must be brought to justice when they act 'above the law' like Thornsbury and Baisden allegedly did in Mingo County. I can tell you for a fact that in the many counties I've lived in during my life, every one of them had some form of corruption/mismanagement in them that required jail time for those responsible. Also in each of those counties were actions/policies of elected officials who did NOT ever come to public light. Hopefully, in time, all WV counties can be 'cleaned up' from all political corruption.