CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin said there could be multiple repercussions for cases Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury handled between 2008 and his arrest on federal charges last week.
Thornsbury is scheduled to be back in U.S. Magistrate Court later this week to be arraigned on a federal charge of violating the Constitutional rights of the Mingo County man who was the husband of Thornsbury’s ex-mistress. Federal prosecutors allege Thornsbury abused his power to have the man falsely arrested with the goal of resuming an affair with the man’s wife.
Thornsbury has been suspended without pay and his law license has also been suspended pending the outcome of the criminal case against him.
Retired Cabell County Circuit Judge John Cummings and former state Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh are now hearing cases in Mingo County as replacements for Thornsbury.
There is the possibility the state Supreme Court could order a review of some of the cases Thornsbury handled over the years.
“We’re still within a few days of having received the indictment so we’re still deciding and looking to see what exactly is down there, but I think there is a need for us to take a look at this,” said Benjamin.
Thornsbury, 57, has been the only circuit judge working in Mingo County since 1997.
Logan County Circuit Judge Ned Grubb was the first judge in West Virginia to be convicted of a felony crime when he was found guilty of bribery, conspiracy, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, racketeering and mail fraud in 1992.
Some of those charges stemmed illegal campaign contributions and other crimes between Grubb and former Logan County Sheriff Earl Tomblin, Sr.
Benjamin said such behavior is not typical of West Virginia’s judges. “We’ve got hundreds of judicial officers that went to work today, all of whom are dedicated to serving the public, and each one of them is thinking about this matter a lot,” he said.
Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden is also scheduled to make a court appearance this week on a separate extortion charge.