CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Inside the courtroom it was cut and dry, outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse it was like a circus.
Former Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden, 67, was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Charleston after pleading guilty back in October to extortion.
As he left the courthouse Wednesday morning, Baisden was surrounded by friends and family who tried to stop the media from taking any photos of Baisden or asking him any questions by pushing and shoving reporters and photographers and in several cases making threats.
Judge John Copenhaver said he took into account Baisden’s crime, the impact it had on the community, his health concerns and all the good works he’s done for the people of Mingo County when sentencing him to 20 months in prison and paying $7,700 in restitution to two companies.
Baisden said in court, “I sincerely apologize to Appalachian Tire, the citizens of Mingo County, the Mingo County Commission, poll workers, family and friends.”
He told the judge, “All my life I wanted to help people. Look at my lifelong achievements, not my mistakes.”
Baisden had two character witnesses testify about those good works, like buying shoes for children who didn’t have any and paying out of pocket to buy the lumber to rebuild a bridge for a widow on a limited income.
His attorney also pointed out more than 1,000 people in Mingo County signed a petition supporting Baisden.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said he’s disappointed with the sentence.
“Justice absolutely cannot be a popularity contest!”
He wanted the judge to sentence Baisden to prison for the maximum under sentencing guidelines, anywhere from 24 to 36 months.
“We need to promote respect for the law. We need to send a very clear message that this can’t happen, especially in an area that’s been plagued with systemic corruption,” according to Goodwin.
Baisden has until April 4 to self-report to prison. The judge granted him 60 days to take care of some health problems before he begins his time behind bars. The judge said he might consider an additional 30-day extension if more time for treatment is needed. Baisden’s specific health problem was not discussed in court.
Baisden is the first of three former Mingo County elected officials to face sentencing after pleading guilty to corruption charges.
Baisden, who served as the county purchasing agent, admitted he demanded Appalachian Tire to sell him tires for his personal vehicle at the same price they were giving the county to put tires on their vehicles. Appalachian refused and lost the county contract to supply tires for the Mingo County fleet.
Baisden was ordered to repay Appalachian Tire $5,480 and Goodyear $2,236. That will be paid in 36 installments.
Two others who pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy charges in Mingo County, former prosecutor Michael Sparks and former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, will be sentenced in March.