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Michael Thornsbury pleaded guilty in October 2013 to violating a man's constitutional rights.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury both resigned his elected office and pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal criminal charges.

Thornsbury, 57, of Williamson, turned in his resignation to the state Supreme Court Wednesday morning and then admitted before U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston a few hours later that he violated a man’s constitutional rights in an attempt to protect his close friend slain Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum.

(Read Thornsbury’s resignation letter here)

Thornsbury admitted to being part of a conspiracy to pressure Delbarton drug dealer George White to change attorneys. White, after consulting with his first attorney, spoke with federal investigators about Sheriff Crum’s alleged illegal drug habits. White claimed he was Crum’s drug dealer.

The conversation came in the months after Crum led a drug bust at White’s Delbarton sign-making business. White claimed Crum was upset with him because White was trying to get money from the sheriff still owed him from making campaign signs.

Thornsbury promised a lighter sentence if White changed attorneys.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said what Thornsbury did more than crossed the line.

“To violate someone’s rights in order to obstruct a federal investigation….that’s really unthinkable,” Goodwin said.

Thornsbury, who has been Mingo County’s only circuit judge since 1997, told the court he took the action because he wanted to protect Crum. Crum was shot and killed last April, his widow Rosie was in the courtroom Wednesday. Goodwin said afterward federal prosecutors have no evidence linking Thornsbury to Crum’s death.

Thornsbury will face up to 10 years in federal prison at his Jan. 13 sentencing but Goodwin said he could get a lot less.

“It depends on how much he cooperates (with the ongoing federal corruption investigation). It depends on if he has fully accepted the responsibility for his crimes,” Goodwin said.

Thornsbury has been granted limited immunity. Goodwin said federal prosecutors can’t use anything the former judge tells them against him in the ongoing investigation.

Thornsbury agreed to resign and also not to fight losing his law license. He could reapply in five years. Thornsbury has also agreed never again to seek political office.


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  • Kate

    Give me a break people...Eugene is dead and can't defend himself. Do you think Judge Thornsbury is the only politician in Mingo County in the past history that has broken the law? My Grandmother told me a story about of a sheriff years ago who murdered a man because of woman the sheriff was having an an affair with. They are all dead now. There is always TWO SIDES to each story. How do you know that that the woman the Judge having the affair with didn't tell Judge to do what he did. Don't JUDGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • realitycheck

      huh? are you off your meds?

  • Daniel

    West Virginia at it's best when it comes to the judicial system. "Scratch my balls (oops, meant back), and I'll scratch yours!" This is part of the reason our great state and it's citizens are made such fun of. He will probably receive a home-confinement sentence and still eat steak & shrimp every night. Then he will open his own law practice in 5 years and still live "high on the hog." Imagine that?

  • Nick

    This awful man deserves more time in prison that drug dealers. I thought he was absolutley not guilty?

  • Larry

    I am shocked that the judge and commisioner pled guilty, when the news women asked them about the charges, they both said they were absolutely innocent, I don't know why they would have said that. Unless, just unless, they are both very dishonest, other than that I can't figure it.

  • Cooter

    That county needs state intervention, much like the way the Board of Education does. I do not trust anybody in that county to be honest or trustworthy and to protect the public.


    That is all he will get? Also, Crum's pension if any should be null and void. Once again, good ole boys get caught, but get a slap on the wrist. Same ole story in WV.

  • Non union dude

    Is This A Bro Of Joe C Ferral Bubba Is Wating Lol

  • Spell Checker

    One county down, fifty-four to go.

  • Brian

    This man is getting far less punishment than he deserves. Look at all the hardship he has inflicted on the people of Mingo County. Look at the embarrassment he has brought on our state. Look at how he violated basic rights of other people.

    • BigDave

      i agree wholeheartedly, Brian. He tried to completely and thoroughly ruin a man, his marrriage and his family. He would have spent years in prison. Drug conviction on his record. He may have never come out of prison.

      Thornsbury should be sent there so he can reap what he tried to sow.