CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Guilty! That was the plea Tuesday morning in Charleston federal court of Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden. He admitted his guilt to one count of extortion that took place in June 2012 while he was the county’s purchasing agent.
As he left the Byrd Federal Courthouse, he said this. “I’m working on a statement. I’ll give a press release at a later time. Thank you.”
As he was getting in his truck to leave, he also commented, “I love the people of Mingo County and I hope they continue to pray for me.”
It was a year and a half ago that Baisden wanted Appalachian Tire, the company that provided tires for county vehicles, to give him the same rate on tires for his personal vehicle. When they refused he left a message on the company’s answering machine stating he’d take the county’s business elsewhere unless he got the deal. Appalachian Tire stood its ground and Baisden admitted to canceling their county contract and going with a different tire distributor.
“This shows you that elected officials have to play by the same set of rules as everybody else,” according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Booth Goodwin. “What Commissioner Baisden did was he abused his power to shake down an honest business for special favors.”
Goodwin said his office aggressively pursued the case because it reflects on all of West Virginia.
“This is the kind of thing that really destroys people’s faith in their government. The people of Mingo County, the people of West Virginia deserve better,” stressed Goodwin.
As part of his plea deal, Baisden will not face additional charges connected to an ongoing corruption investigation in Mingo County.
“He has agreed to plead guilty to these charges and he is cooperating with our ongoing investigation. So he won’t be further charged,” explained Goodwin.
Two other conditions of his plea; he must resign from the Mingo County Commission before he is sentenced and he can never again hold an elected political office.
Baisden faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced January 14. But Goodwin said it’s more likely he’ll receive just a few years.
“It depends on how cooperative he is, whether he is able to give us substantial assistance in our investigation,” said Goodwin. “So there are a number of factors that will play into his sentence.”
Baisden said he does not plan to step down from the county commission until the day of his sentencing. He remains free on $10,000 bond.