We’re making progress in Mingo County.
Yesterday, Michael Thornsbury pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to deprive an individual of his constitutional rights in order to protect one of his cronies.
Thornsbury, who had been suspended since the feds indicted him on separate charges in August, also resigned yesterday. He will continue to cooperate with federal investigators as he awaits his sentencing in January.
He faces a $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison. He won’t do that much time, but it’s still a precipitous fall for the corrupt former judge who is about to find out what the world looks like from the other side of the bars.
Additionally, Thornsbury will turn in his law license and wait at least five years to apply for reinstatement.
The state Supreme Court, which oversees the judiciary, moved promptly to discipline Thornsbury. He has been on suspension without pay since the original indictment.
However, Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden is a different matter.
Baisden pleaded guilty this week to extortion for his ham-handed attempt to shake down a Mingo County business for discount tires for his personal vehicle. However, Baisden was also implicated in the Thornsbury conspiracy to interfere with a federal investigation.
Baisden’s plea agreement says he must step down before his sentencing, but that’s not until January 14. Baisden’s Commission salary is $35,640. That means if he hangs on until his sentencing, the taxpayers will pay him another $10,300.
I’m told that Baisden has not been at any Mingo County Commission meetings since he was charged, and he failed to show up at yesterday’s meeting when a citizen pushed for the remaining two commissioners to take action. Benjamin Cisco says he’s outraged that a convicted felon is still on the county payroll.
State law provides for Baisden to be booted out of office. West Virginia Code 6-5-5 says any elected official, who has been convicted of a felony, shall vacate that office (emphasis added).
But who is going to make that happen? The two remaining Mingo County Commissioners, John Hubbard and Hootie Smith, gave no indication yesterday they are going to follow through, so it appears Baisden can hang on until January.
As Cisco asked rhetorically, “Are we really going to pay the salary of an admitted convicted felon?”
It would appear so, unless Hubbard and Smith realize that their own credibility is damaged as long as Baisden stays on the Commission. If they won’t act out of public interest, then maybe self-interest will provide the necessary motivation.