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.