CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The president of the West Virginia State Bar Association says the typical caseload in Mingo County doesn’t warrant another circuit judge.
Harry Deitzler suggested delegates calling for a second judge are overreacting to the criminal corruption charges facing Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury.
“You have to decide is this one incident such a big deal that we need to change the whole system? And I don’t think that it is,” Deitzler said.
House Majority Leader Harry Keith White said he’ll propose legislation to add a second circuit judge after the arrest of Thornsbury, who is charged with violating the Constitutional rights of his ex-mistress’s husband by trying to frame the man on drug charges.
Thornsbury, 57, has been the only circuit judge working in Mingo County since 1997. He stands accused of targeting his former secretary’s husband, Robert Woodruff, since 2008 in an alleged attempt to resume an affair with the woman.
Thornsbury was suspended without pay and his law license was also suspended pending the outcome of the criminal case against him soon after his arrest last Thursday.
Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden was also arrested that day and charged with attempted extortion for allegedly cutting off the county’s business with Appalachian Tire in Williamson when the company refused to apply the county’s tire discount for Baisden’s personal vehicle.
Baisden is still working in his elected role.
Benjamin Cisco, a Mingo County resident, said that needs to change. “I think he should take it upon himself to step down, pending the outcome of the investigation, due to these very serious allegations,” Cisco said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
There are questions about what repercussions other officials in Mingo County could face for their actions in the federal cases against Baisden and Thornsbury.
Mingo County prosecuting attorney Michael Sparks is one of them. Thornsbury’s indictment alleged Sparks recused himself from at least one action involving Woodruff and later dismissed separate charges against him.
Deitzler said attorneys are bound by the state bar’s rules of professional of conduct that require reporting of “substantial” judicial conduct violations. He said Sparks may not have known the extent of Thornsbury’s actions.
“(Sparks) is in a tough situation,” Deitzler said. “If it is a substantial violation and if he actually had the knowledge that it was a substantial violation, he has to report. But, if it’s not in that category, he has to kind of tiptoe around a little bit.”
All the cases Sparks handled in Mingo County went through Judge Thornsbury’s courtroom.