CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Attorney’s Office has told the state lawyer Office of Disciplinary Counsel that Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks has admitted to being part of conspiracies involving suspended Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury.
The ODC has filed additional information with the state Supreme Court seeking the immediate suspension of Sparks’ law license. The disciplinary counsel received a sealed order from federal prosecutors that said Sparks admitted to the FBI of his “knowledge and involvement” in the alleged crimes against Thornsbury.
On Thursday, the state Supreme Court set a hearing date for arguments before a decision will be made on the future of Sparks’ law license. That hearing will be held on Oct. 16.
In his filings with the state Supreme Court, Sparks denied being involved but the Office of Disciplinary Counsel said a sworn affidavit from FBI Special Agent Joe Ciccarelli shows Sparks hasn’t told the state Supreme Court the truth.
The ODC also said the U.S. Attorney’s Office plans to take the information against Sparks to a federal grand jury for consideration.
Sparks has not been charged and he’s pointed out that he voluntarily spoke with federal investigators. Sparks has previously said and the ODC confirmed, Sparks did so without immunity from federal prosecutors.
Judge Thornsbury is scheduled to plead guilty Oct. 2 on charges that he violated a man’s constitutional rights. It’s alleged Thornsbury worked with several other elected officials in Mingo County, including Prosecutor Sparks, to protect late Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum from a federal investigation.
Originally, Thornsbury had been accused of illegally using his judicial power to target the husband of his ex-mistress over a period of years. The ODC said Sparks has admitted he knew about Thornsbury’s actions, which included setting up a grand jury to indict the husband, but Sparks failed to report the judge.
Sparks’ attorney Lonnie Simmons filed a response Thursday to the new information. In it, Sparks maintains he’s violated no rules of professional conduct and has not committed a crime. Sparks called the allegations by the ODC, ethics complaints, and he asked the Supreme Court to allow them to go forward in an appropriate forum where witnesses could be called and cross-examined.
Sparks said suspending his law license would be “professionally, personally and economically devastating.”