As federal investigators delve farther down the rabbit hole in Mingo County, the discoveries only get curiouser and curiouser.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office had suspended Mingo County Judge Michael Thornsbury sufficiently nailed on charges that he abused his position multiple times to entrap the husband of his ex-mistress, that Thornsbury decided to cooperate and pleaded guilty to less dubious charges.

Now Thornsbury is admitting to participating in a scheme designed to hold together the interconnected web of political corruption that is Mingo County.

Here’s what is included in the new federal charge against Thornsbury.  Follow along as best you can.

Sheriff Eugene Crum, who was honored by the community (and praised by me) for his service following his murder earlier this year, was actually a substance abuser who was supplied drugs by George White of Delbarton.

White is a sign maker, and Crum owed White $3,000 for political signs made during the last election.  Rather than pay the bill, Crum set up White by getting an informant to buy three oxycodone pills from him.

Crum and Carl David Rockel, who was then the police chief of Williamson and a close associate of Crum’s, brought drug charges against White.

White hired Butch West as his attorney and began cooperating with federal investigators, explaining to them how Crum was really one of White’s drug customers. Crum got wind of the cooperation and enlisted help from some of his cronies.

The feds say Crum, Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks, Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden and others hatched a scheme; White would hire a different attorney who would not cooperate with the federal investigation and, in return, Judge Thornsbury would give White a light sentence on the drug charge.

Crum then ordered one of his deputies to get a statement from White saying he never sold drugs to Crum.

I know, it sounds absurd, but that’s the way the show has been run in Mingo County; a cabal of miscreants making it up as they go along, abusing their positions, running roughshod over the law, threatening and intimidating people.

As one person familiar with the investigation told me, “The norms among the political class are distorted” in Mingo County.

The pending guilty pleas by Thornsbury and Baisden do not end the investigation. They’re cooperating with the feds, and if anybody knows the whereabouts of the skeletons, it’s Thornsbury.

Sparks has been cooperating with investigators, too.  He has not been charged, but the information returned against Thornsbury suggests Sparks has problems because he arranged for a more favorable sentence for White in return for White replacing his attorney.

Meanwhile, congratulations to U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and his office.  Frontline investigators Steve Ruby, who serves as counsel to the U.S. Attorney, and FBI Special Agents Jim Lafferty and Joe Ciccarelli have been relentless in their drive to clean up Mingo County.

Bringing Thornsbury and Baisden to justice is critically important, not only in Mingo, but also in our state, which has had more than its share of political transgressors.

But the work isn’t finished.  The rabbit hole descends farther.  Keep going.

 

 

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Comments

  • Mickey

    While they're at it, the FBI needs to take a look at its own house, focusing on Mr X, who I understand was the SA in charge of Mingo and vicinity in years past. Seems his relationships with many of these scoundrels needs to be scrutinized, particularly as it relates to 2003-2005 criminal cases in the county. No wonder citizens just accepted the pathetic state of affairs as their reality; I know a person who called in 2004 and two FBI offices in this great State of ours adamantly directed the caller to Mr X, who also set about protecting the corrupt politicians and some dirty Logan troopers. Ultimately, the complaint never even got off the ground. Mr X clearly saw his job in that case as one of protecting the oppressors from the oppressed! Idk if Mr X is still with the agency at this time but his protection in 04 allowed the corrupt to continue with their business as usual. Can the current Bureau really protect us? Dare I hope?

  • bulldog95

    I wonder if I could go rob a bank and plead down to running a stop sign?

    A real strong message being sent here...

  • Deb Phillips

    This may be a dumb thing to say.....but something keeps nagging at my mind. If Crum didn't want it known about his addiction to the very thing that he was preaching against....(drugs), to the FBI.....then why did they (meaning the judge, prosecutor, etc) work out a scheme to get White a "reduced" sentence. Why not have all the charges dropped, against White??? Paper-work fall through the cracks, type-of-thing. The "reduced charges" does not make sense to me. If I were White, I would have said....no-way .....you drop the drug charges against me completely, or I will continue to cooperate with FBI. That would make more sense.

    • JimmyTwo Times

      I agree. It seems like White didn't do a very good job negotiating for himself. Like most who have commented, I think there is still plenty to come from this investigation. There sure is a lot of unanswered questions.

    • maggie may

      Mingo is like a foreign country. I think the way George W. and his attorney played the game very well. Had he gone against the "good ole
      boys" he may not be alive today to round up more information. These power players in Mingo would throw him in the Tug River with bricks on feet had he gone against them. It's very REAL when threatened by those in power..

      • Deb Phillips

        I may be wrong, but it seems that if they were going to really silence him, they would have done the brick and river thing......instead of a reduced sentence. It still doesn't make sense to me. (I don't see why they thought a 'reduced sentence' would silence him.)

    • Retired Charlie

      White knew who to be afraid of, and it wasn't the FBI.

  • Hillbilly

    The visibility here all started with the murder of the Sheriff (Crum) by a retarded Maynard.. I guarantee that sheriff knew too much about someone who got Maynard to take him out.. so there is still plenty more to uncover here..

  • FungoJoe

    I'm waiting on the forthcoming announcement that US Rep. Nick Joe Rahall-D WV has decided to forego his re-election plans in 2014 and retire from Congress. That will be telling.
    There are some big shiney political trinkets at the end of that rabbit hole for the US Attorney to keep pursuing. The DOJ keeps statistics on all US Attorney offices across America. Next to terrorism convictions, getting convictions on corrupt public officials is the next highest statistic that US Attorneys offices covet or strive for. Don' stop now Mr. Goodwin. Keep digging, even if it takes down a US Rep, Governor and former and current legislative leaders. .

  • FungoJoe

    Will the Feds have the stones to go into Logan County? Wayne County? Boone County? Gov. ERT and some Legislature leaders sure are not resting easy these days.

    Those politicos in Mingo ALL had a big ole "D" behind their names, and proudly proclaimed themselves "liberal progressives" to anyone that would listen. That really comes as no shock or surprise.
    Progressives==corruption.

    • JimmyTwo Times

      Party affiliation does not have anything to do with it. C'mon man! Ignorance!

      • FungoJoe

        It has everything to do with the corruption. That liberal elitist mentality/philosophy has permeated from the national level down to the localist of the local levels.
        Ignorance is bliss. You must be very happy.

    • Hillboy

      Hey Gojo, Booth Goodwin is a Democrat. If the party was that corrupt there would be no investigation. You're deluded if you think corruption is limited to one party. I give the Republicans credit though. They don't mess around with this penny-ante stuff.

  • Jt

    This is and has been the way county government operates in this and other states usually no oversight with only a few being interested and involved while thousands could care less, the STP (same ten people) are always involved in all matters and even the good things that happen are usually because of the STP. Instead of complaining become active in the community.

  • Wyoming

    "Based on a true story" would be the first words on the back cover. Drama, corruption at high levels, not knowing who to trust, calling in the FBI, murdered police officials, drugs, set-ups . . . Yep, it's a novel in the making.

  • Metzger

    the Southern part of the state isnt exclusive to corruption - come experience the eastern panhandle government and judicial system .

    • epeer

      +1

    • clynn

      I completely agree regarding the eastern panhandle. I can only hope they soon dismantle Berkeley county. As a relative of some top ranking public officials I have personally seen the corruption here.

      • Inc0gnito66

        C.-

        I'd like to know a little more about what type of corruption you've seen.

        Other than Patsy Kilmer's resignation from the County Assessors' office.

        And the DMV employee who had a nice little side bussiness of providing vehicle operator's permits for cash in his wallet.

    • Mountaineer

      I could not believe this council meeting. Disgrace to leadership. Watch here on YouTube. ( http://youtu.be/vHPLuJOJnr0

  • The Dark Knight

    Where does Truman Chaffin fit in all this Mingo corruption?

    • Joe

      Start at the 1960 WV Presidential primary (Kennedy) and move forward through this generation.

  • Low Rider

    Most of the counties south of Route 60 (Mingo, McDowell, Lincoln, Boone, Logan) are an embarrassment to the state of WV. Political corruption, meth labs, food stamp fraud, welfare fraud, social security disability abuse...the list goes on and on.

    I'm happy to see Booth Goodwin tackling the corrupt. Unfortunately knowing the history of Southern WV, it will repeat itself again.

    • JimmyTwo Times

      I agree it's an embarrassment. But those counties are some of the poorest in the state with very high unemployment. When you have that combination, drug abuse and the crime you mentioned such as food stamp fraud, welfare fraud and SSDI abuse increase. The problem is there are no jobs except for the coal industry, and those jobs have been declining for the last 40 years. I'm not saying it's right but that's what happens when people feel like they have no other choice and feel desperate like that. You'll say, "Why don't they go somewhere else to find a job?" The answer is they are. Welch used to have a population over 50,000 people and I'm sure the other counties you mentioned have experienced those declines as well.

      However, that still doesn't explain the political corruption.

    • Mountaineer

      "Political corruption, meth labs, food stamp fraud, welfare fraud, social security disability abuse...the list goes on and on." Sadly sounds like large portion of America today...#1933

    • L Phillips

      Excuse me "Mr. Low Rider" but Southern Counties are no different than any other county in West Virginia...you meth labs are there...the food stamp fraud is EVERYWHERE and if you think not, then you live in a dream world...everything your mentioned there is being used everywhere, not just in West Virginia but in every state in this country...And judging the way you hid your name and did not even state where you are from I would say that you are to embarrassed to say so...

  • GregG

    I just hope they don't stop with Mingo County. These type of "dirty dealings" are not limited to Mingo County.

    • wirerowe

      I disagree Greg. The breadth depth and pervasiveness of corruption is unique. A maze of conspiracies.

      • GregG

        Sorry wirerowe, but I do not believe these type of actions are unique or limited to Mingo County. Actually, as bad as Mingo is looking at the moment, I would feeling safe in saying that this case would be nothing in comparison to what is taking place in other counties and small towns of this state.

        • wirerowe

          Documentation versus speculation. When it is documented I will agree

          • Bill Hill

            Greg is pretty much on target. Notice, metronews is also reporting on a former Weirton mayor that embezzled while he was in office. This isn't the first by any means either. Our local paper, the Moorefield Examiner, recently published a listing of some of the corruption found through out the state. It isn't just the southern part of the state by any means.

    • DonaldH

      You mean like Kanawha County Commission changing the law as to the Commissioner doesn't have to live in the district they represent-- I think all 3 of the Kan. County Comm. live in the City of Charleston and two live in the same district. AND they have the city of Charleston divided up equally to vote and have a close the majority of voters in each district.
      Which explains why Charleston seems to get more than the lions share of county recourses.

  • CaptainQ

    Hoppy, although it is good that this 'ring of corruption' in Mingo County has been exposed, it begs bigger questions. How many other counties in this state (not just southern counties) have corruption 'networks' like this one? Will those ever be uncovered and stopped?

    I've always said that many WV county governments resemble the 'Boss Hogg/Roscoe P. Coaltrane' model, and it looks like Mingo County came close to that. But will other counties with similar political 'systems' ever be liberated by the long arm of the law?

    Time will tell, Hoppy, time will tell.

    • Roscoe P. Coltrain

      Ggggggggg... Ggggggggg..... Hot pursuit! I love it! I love it!

      • DonaldH

        Hey Roscoe, never noticed what hilarious last name you have-- COAL TRAIN--- BRILLIANT!!!

    • Wowbagger

      Good point Captain!

      Long ago my father was a county official in a northern West Virginia county that had a good reputation for transparency so I understand some of the issues.

      I had at least one odd experience a couple of years ago in another southern West Virginia county that suggested that I had inadvertently come close to something that was intended to remain hidden. I don't really know what was going on, but a county employee acted very suspiciously chasing me off of a remote county owned facility that should have been open to the public.

    • P1

      Please send the FBI and U.S. Attorney on over to Pocahontas County for the next house cleaning of corruption- its rampant and everywhere in our county just like this.

  • thornton

    Send in the ferrets!

    I think a lot of folks misjudged Crum, Hop.

    Mingo county needs to deliver a good dose of salts for all the residents if change is actually to occur.

    • Joe

      I agree, Thornton. There had to have been many Mingo citizens who knew of the various extreme corruptipn and turned a blind eye. Probably would have made great Nazis.

  • DonaldH

    Where southern West Virginia is concerned I am ashamed and amazed!!

    Ashamed that I don't care and amazed that I am genuinely not surprised what goes on down there..