When Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury appeared in federal court last month for his arraignment, he defiantly said he was “absolutely not guilty.”

The first stage of grief is denial.

The U.S. Attorney’s office produced a remarkably detailed indictment against Thornsbury, accusing him of abusing his position in multiple ways to harass and try to imprison the husband of his one-time paramour.

The indictment indicates that federal investigators have lined up a series of witnesses who have cooperated with authorities and are willing to testify against Thornsbury. Friendships and allegiances melt away when it comes to skin-saving time.

Thornsbury is likely thinking more clearly about his own skin, which is on the verge of being flayed by the competent and evidence-stocked U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The once-sovereign judge did make one wise decision; he hired Steve Jory as his attorney.  The former federal prosecutor knows how the system works, meaning he’s well aware that when the feds get their teeth in you, it’s like being clamped by a pit bull.

Additionally, in a big case such as this, the initial charge only reveals a portion of the investigation, sometimes just enough to get the process started.  It’s only after that when federal investigators sit down with the defendant and say, “and this is what else we have on you.”

The years on possible multiple convictions begin to add up—20 years, 30 years, life! I talked to one former federal prosecutor (not about this case) who told me that as reality settles in, the hubris disappears and the bargaining begins.

If Thornsbury is like the vast majority of those who’ve been caught up in allegations of corruption, and he is listening to good advice from a respected attorney, he’s cutting the best deal possible, but that means going to prison.

Depressing, yes, but it’s a natural part of grief.

Thornsbury once ruled the roost in Mingo County. He was the absolute power in a limited domain and he failed to heed the warning of Baron Acton about the inevitability of corruption in such circumstances.

It’s difficult to come down from that high and natural that Thornsbury would seek absolution.  That, however, can only come after a long and costly defense against multiple charges.  And juries have more sympathy for some poor sod who shoots his neighbor than a politician on trial.

No, judge, you really don’t want that.  Cop the plea.  Spill your guts.  Do your 3-5 years and then carve out a niche in a helpful legal aid service somewhere.  That will bring you to the final stage: acceptance.

It’s a long road from “absolutely not guilty,” but it’s the only path that makes sense, while at the same time giving corruption-ravaged Mingo County a chance to rebuild its justice system and its dignity.

 

 

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Comments

  • jd,harris

    I say no deal,an a few years for the deals he gave his crooked helpers.

  • Mac

    "It was the incarnation of blind and insensate Greed. It was a monster devouring with a thousand mouths, trampling with a thousand hoofs; it was the Great Butcher--it was the spirit of Capitalism made flesh."
    - "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair

  • Mingo citizen

    Let's hope that if Judge Thornsbury is singing, he brings down some more crooked politicians, political cronies and lawyers in Mingo County. Rumor has it there are some very nervous people in and around Williamson .... stay tuned.

    • b.smith

      If he sings,,,there will be more little birdies sitting in cages!!!!,,,,corruption rules these little kingdoms are always run in that manner,,,no matter who is elected or appointed,,, they become corrupted by POWER and GREED!!!!! Sometimes to the point of their own downfall!!! All who are guilty of participating in ANY schemes to prosecute INNOCENT PERSONS should go to JAIL!!!

  • Kevin

    Legal aid?! ... Really, so, you think that after the dust clears at the end of all this his law license will be intact? Give me a break!

  • Fentanyl Bomb

    To hell with a plea deal for Michael Thornsbury.

    I hold him in the same contempt that I have for child molesters.

    He was entrusted with one of the greatest treasures we have as a society, a fair and impartial judicial system, and he used it as a tool for his own obsessions.

    These are absolutely heinous allegations that should not be pled away. If there are Federal mandatory mininums for low-level drug offenders with no room for consideration from the bench, I would offer that these charges exceed all of them in terms of danger to the public good.

    Disgusting.

    • GregG

      I'm with you Fentanyl, I wish there wasn't even the words "plea deal" in our legal system.

  • Mingo Defense Lawyer

    He's a thin-skinned coward. He's going to take the deal. But the deal has strings and a song list. The song list includes high octave tunes and low octave tunes. He can't pick and choose. RUMINT has it that he's already signed the deal and the singing has already begun. Stay tuned.

  • Brad

    Thornsberry is not the first WV judge to "rule the roost." J. Harper Meredith was the Democrat boss and dictator of Marion County from 1945 until 1985 when they finally voted him out for another Dem. He left the county in much worse shape than he'd found it, but his name and photo are still attached to the City-County Complex in Fairmont. The feds busted up some of the corruption that Meredith's reign had birthed but he never went to prison himself. Died soon after he was voted out.

  • FungoJoe

    Hoppy,
    I see where the five Western Maryland counties are wanting to succeed from the State of Maryland because they are tired of the disenfranchisement of constant Democrat/Progressive party rule. We in WV know exactly how they feel, terribly letdown by the Democrat/Progressive political hacks. We are fixing that in WV and would welcome those additional counties into WV.

  • GregG

    And what if this story was about a Judge that used his power to protect or increase the profits of.......oh, let's say Big Coal? Sure I want to see Thornsbury punished for his crimes. But don't stop there, go after all these corrupt judges.

    • Hillboy

      "Steal a little and they put you in jail, steal a lot and they make you a king." -Bob Dylan-

      • Hop'sHip

        You're not referring to King Coal, are you? I understand he has a lot of friends around here.

    • StatMan3

      No GREED comments today? How about the GREED of political power and clout that the Democrats in WV and nationally crave and are addicted to? Where are your comments about the GREED of BIG GOVERNMENT??
      I fear BIG GOVERNMENT and the political GREED of the Democrats much, much, much more than I fear Big Coal, Big Business, Big Oil, and Big Tobacco combined.

      • GregG

        And who do you think controls our government? Who buys and pays for these political seats? It damn sure isn't a government of "the people" anymore. I don't know about you, but I'm not Exxon/Mobil, the Sierra Club or the Catholic Church.

  • thornton

    I would say that this Thornsbury indictment is a very happy occurrence and fervently hope that it does not represent an "ending."

    Additional corrupt game is afoot....sic 'em.

    As far as Mingoites deserving "better", yes but they also were part of the problem as the enablers. Personally, Mingoites, don't concern me overmuch....comparably.

  • Buster

    As an old timer told me once: "There's nothing more disgusting than a small town big shot".

  • Levelheaded

    He absolutely should be in general prison population.

    p.s. Love the word "paramour".

  • Medman

    I am always amazed of the hubris that makes politicians think they are smarter than the rest of us and are above the laws they are elected to enforce. The list of hacks who have done that in WV is incredibly and embarrassingly a long one. The laws and sentencing guidelines need to be overhauled to the point that we lock them up for life or at minimum lock them up with the general prison population for 20 years.

  • CaptainQ

    Hoppy, this is a sad ending to a difficult chapter in Mingo County history. Let's hope Michael Thornsbury takes your advice, accepts a plea bargain and quietly exits the scene. The people of Mingo County deserve better.