CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A Mingo County attorney sees the results of the ongoing federal investigation, focused on corruption at the Mingo County Courthouse, as a good chance for his county.
“I think that we have an opportunity here to really clean up Mingo County,” said Charles “Butch” West on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
West was identified as C.W. in a federal information filed Thursday against suspended Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Thornsbury has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring with other elected officials to keep a man from reporting late Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum’s alleged past drug purchases to the FBI.
That man is George White who owned a sign business in Mingo County and claims he sold political signs and prescription pills to Crum. Crum was shot and killed outside of the Mingo County Courthouse in early April.
West represented White before then. That is when, federal prosecutors claimed, Crum set White up to be arrested on drug charges rather than pay a $3,000 bill for political signs used in his 2012 election. Shortly after White retained him, West said investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation contacted him to request time with White.
“He (White) was upset with Mr. Crum because of the very things that are listed in that information and I asked him if he wanted to talk to the federal people and he said he did,” according to West.
White told FBI agents that on “multiple occasions prior to his arrest, he unlawfully provided Crum with prescription narcotic pills at Crum’s request,” prosecutors alleged in Thursday’s filing. The information said he provided pills to Crum while Crum was a Mingo County magistrate and also told investigators about “election law violations committed by Crum.”
While preparing his defense of White, West said he drafted a brief he intended to file at trial about a police officer using his position for illegal gains. “A statement of the case or a summary of the case was that he had been indicted for trafficking in drugs and that, basically, was the pot calling the kettle black,” said West.
He said he showed that brief to Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks. “I made the prosecutor aware of that document and asked him to look at it and took a copy to his office,” he said.
Soon after that, West was off White’s case. The information alleged Thornsbury promised a lighter sentence for White on the drug charges if he fired West and hired an approved attorney instead. The federal filing claimed the conspiracy to keep White from talking to federal investigators also involved Crum, Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden and Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks.
At this point, Sparks has not been charged with any federal crimes and has denied the allegations.
Sparks wrote the following on his public Facebook page on Thursday:
“I was shocked by the unfounded accusations against me in United States of America v. Michael Thornsbury,” wrote Sparks. “Thornsbury is a sinister, vindictive womanizer that abused the powers of his judgeship in multiple attempts to falsely incriminate a romantic rival. There is evidence that Thornsbury has engaged in other criminal and unethical activity. I expected to be a target of false incrimination and vengeance since I substantially assisted the federal investigation of Thornsbury.”
Sparks continued, “White is a convicted drug dealer currently incarcerated at Southwestern Regional Jail on a sentence of up to 15 years for two felony drug convictions. White also forfeited $10,000.00 in cash. The disposition of White’s charges was consistent with dispositions of prior similar cases during my tenure.”
Baisden is preparing to plead guilty to a separate federal extortion charge.
West is a former Williamson mayor who ran for prosecuting attorney in the 2012 primary election. He lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to Sparks.