CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Suspended Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring with other Mingo County officials to keep a man from reporting late Sheriff Eugene Crum’s alleged past drug purchases to the FBI. A guilty plea hearing was requested by federal prosecutors Thursday afternoon.
In a federal information case filed earlier Thursday, Thornsbury is accused of working with Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks, Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden, Crum and others to force the man, identified as G.W. in the information, to fire his attorney and end his cooperation with federal investigators.
G.W. is George White who was operating a sign business in Delbarton.
Federal documents revealed Crum owed White $3,000 for election signs and other materials he bought on credit before being elected in 2012. In January of this year, after Crum became sheriff, he allegedly sent a confidential police informant to White to buy oxycodone and later got a search warrant for his business.
A Mingo County grand jury indicted White on the resulting drug charge at the end of January.
After his arrest, White hired Charles “Butch” West, identified as C.W. in the information, to represent him. Prosecutors said West and White first met with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in February to report that “on multiple occasions prior to his arrest, he (White) unlawfully provided Crum with prescription narcotic pills at Crum’s request.”
Crum’s alleged oxycodone buys happened while he was a Mingo County magistrate, prior to being elected sheriff.
Thornsbury’s role in the alleged conspiracy started in March when he allegedly promised a lighter sentence for the drug charge if White fired West as counsel. White agreed to hire an attorney Thornsbury and the others approved, thus ending cooperation with the FBI.
According to the federal case, “The sign-maker went in front of the judge and there was an agreement that the law would go easier on him as result of his agreement to cooperate in this fashion,” said Booth Goodwin, U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District.
Crum was shot and killed while eating lunch near the Mingo County Courthouse on April 3. Tennis Maynard of Delbarton is charged with Crum’s murder. On Wednesday, Sparks recused himself from the Maynard case citing “an emerging conflict of interest.”
Thornsbury was previously charged with violating the Constitutional rights of the husband of his ex-mistress over a span of years. He allegedly abused his judicial power to target the man. Federal officials said his guilty plea will be for the information issued Thursday.
The next step for Thornsbury, who is the only elected official charged in the information, will be a plea hearing.
“Unless and until a federal judge passes on the plea, it’s not a done deal,” said Goodwin on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
A plea hearing is already in the process of being scheduled for Baisden, charged separately with extortion for allegedly ending Mingo County’s business with Appalachian Tire when his request for the county price for tires for his personal vehicle was denied.
Kyle Lovern with the Williamson Daily News said the ongoing federal investigation could mark a change in Mingo County. “We’re hoping that this will clean out the courthouse, get rid of the political slates and we can get some good, honest politicians in some of these positions and do some good for Mingo County,” he said.