Former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury was surrounded by reporters when he entered the federal courthouse in Charleston Monday for his sentencing.
Chris Lawrence/MetroNews
Former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury was surrounded by reporters when he entered the federal courthouse in Charleston Monday for his sentencing.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston told former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury that he along with his “cronies” took away the constitutional rights of a Delbarton man and in doing so made government “unrecognizable” in Mingo County.

Johnston went beyond the sentencing guidelines and ordered Thornsbury to federal prison for 50 months during a Monday afternoon hearing in Charleston.

The judge called Thornsbury’s conduct “appalling and unacceptable.”

As the only circuit judge in Mingo County, Thornsbury agreed to a plan to force sign maker George White to switch attorneys to protect former Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum from a federal investigation. White switched attorneys and pleaded guilty to a drug charge in hopes of a lighter sentence. He spent nearly 300 days in jail.

During his apology to the court Monday, Thornsbury said he regretted the “30 second conversation” he had with Crum when he agreed to the deal.

“It’s with me every waking minute. I failed. I failed,” Thornsbury said.

But Judge Johnston said Thornsbury conduct went beyond those 30 seconds.

“It’s important for this sentence to send a message,” he said.

The judge reviewed other charges against Thornsbury that included having his secretary’s husband arrested on a drug charge because she rejected the judge’s advances. Johnston said Thornsbury abused his power as a judge and operated the courthouse in Williamson “like the regime of a 3rd World dictator.”

The sentencing guidelines called for a 30-37 months in prison and with a 10-month reduction for cooperating with investigators, Thornsbury faced 20-27 months but Judge Johnston doubled that time with a 50-month sentence and said it would have been 60 months without the cooperation.

“Mr. Thornsbury’s conduct was shocking and appalling, really,” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said. “It really cried out for a stiff sentence. The court does this every day and he can see hollow words and he can see what was actually the case here.”

Goodwin said he agrees with the stiffer sentence because Thornsbury was an officer of the court.

“He holds justice in his hands and that system was compromised in this case,” he said.

Federal prosecutors did tell the court it was Thornsbury’s information and agreement to testify that was significant in the guilty pleas of former Mingo County Commissioner Dave Baisden and former Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks. Sparks will be sentenced next week.

Thornsbury, who had his law license stripped and lost his state pension as part of the conviction, spoke for several minutes. He described himself as having “misguided loyalties with selfishness and pride.” He said he’d been in self-imprisonment for the last several months.

“I offer my sincere apologies. I would take it back 10,000 times over if I could. I ask for forgiveness for everyone impacted,” he said. “I’m flawed. I showed weakness. I should have and could have stopped the change of counsel. I was wrong as wrong could be.”

Thornbury’s attorneys pointed out his years of work in the community with youth programs asking the judge for a lighter sentence so he could begin to rebuild his life but Judge Johnston refused saying Thornsbury’s good works were “completely overshadowed” by his other actions.

Thornsbury will self-report to federal prison. He’s asked to be sent to federal work camps in either Pensacola, Fla., or Montgomery, Alabama. He’ll be on supervised release for three years after his 50-month sentence.

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Comments

  • Laurice Tatum

    Justice has taken it course, sad but true. It's a sad commentary that it even reached this point of being another huge embarrassment and disgrace for the legal profession. When a simple strong core belief in ethics would have prevented such form ever have happened the first place.

    Are we as a society - the profession, going to allow : weak, cankerous, inferior internal element to continue eating away at what the profession is intended to be? What a disgrace the profession has become. And we call ourselves a just society grounded in the rule of law. "Give me a break!" We're hypocrites. Law is no longer based in what is honorable and right but greed and selfishness.

    Once again I encourage the profession to start teaching ethics, and I don’t mean teaching ways of skirting ethical conduct but the adherence to a strong set of core beliefs designed to benefit the whole of society. Ethics designed to further the true meaning and spirit of the law. Does this mean nothing to your professional ideology?

    I ask that all reading these comments contact your Bar Associations and demand ethics in the legal profession. Contact public and private official and demand anyone who touches the life of another human being be tested for sociopathic and Psychopathic tendencies.

    If our belief system is truly grounded in the rule of law, I encourage the reader to do society a favor and don’t allow unethical behavior to undermine trust and faith in the law.

  • Jim N Charleston

    They sentenced him to him to a MINIMUM Security Federal Prison for him going full on Boss Hogg & trying to ruin peoples lives. There are 4 left in the USA and he gets a choice of 2 of the 4. This is club med uninformed knuckle draggers.

    Normally, actually almost always, Federal Prisoners must serve within 500 miles of the place where they are from. Thornsbury must have some dirt on some higher ups.

    And Goodwin is beating his chest like he's really laid the law down. Got to love the US Justice System
    God Bless America

    I'm Jim N Myrtle Beach
    All I got
    L8r

  • leary

    So do all criminals get the option to 'self-report'?? Seriously?

  • Fred

    Tennis Maynard for governor!

    • Hillbilly

      Did they ever figure out who got Tennis Maynard to kill the sheriff?

      • Fred

        The sheriff had a history of sexually assaulting teenagers. I believe he molested Tennis when Tennis was in the dead sheriff's boxing program.

  • DWL

    Question is, why did it take so long before the Feds stepped in? Some one must have pis-ed in their cheerios. Oh that's right, WV didn't support the m0r0n.

  • arp

    What does Mingo County have in common with so many other corrupt counties in W.Va. ? They are ONE PARTY counties, heavily Democrat for years. People, this is what you get when you sell your votes to a party that has pretended to be "for the people," but is actually for itself, its power. Eighty-six years of Democrat rule in this state is enough, don't you think? Look at the successful, prosperous states--nearly all of them have a healthy, two-party system. One party counties promote these little dictatorships. You know it's true!

    • Diaspora

      So these things don't happen I'm Republican controlled counties in this country? Please, cut me a freaking break. Is it not a Democratic, federal administration that prosecuted these charlatans? Please, cut us all a framing break !

      • Jason412

        I think his point is every area (state, county, city) needs a two party system to make sure one party isn't out of control doing whatever they want and being continuously elected due to being the only ones on the ballot. I would agree with that.

  • Bill MC

    Sounds to me like he got off easy. I would think there are people in jail right now that received more time for a lesser offense. More than likely he was the one that passed judgement on several of them. Just my option but elected officials that run rough shod over the general public should be held to a higher standard and when that standard is broken they should receive more time, several years worth of more time.

    • Jason412

      Crimes that are only committed by the privileged of society seem to always have low sentences. Although I admit, it's quite unbelievable the recommended sentence was a mere 3 years max.

      I agree elected officials, law enforcement and others of that caliber should be held to a far higher standard.

      Not only that, they shouldn't have their own special white collar country club prisons. Non-violent lower class offenders get thrown in with the wolves in the same prisons and cell blocks as killers and gang bangers, the same should be done to politicians, law enforcement, and the upper class.

  • Judge Jimmy

    It's to bad that they can't dig up "boy molesting, drug abusing" Eugene Crum and prosecute him.

  • thornton

    Hopefully, the tv will be in black and white.

  • jm

    White needs to sue this disgrace to the justice system for everything he has ever gotten.

  • Jonus Grumby

    50 years would have been more appropriate.

  • mingo man

    I hope he gets cornholed

    • navin johnson

      there was no mention in the media reports if the judge will receive "special protection" while in prison. he should be tossed in general population or assigned a cell with bubba and the backdoor bad boy squad.

      • Jason412

        Just because it wasn't mentioned doesn't mean it isn't so. I'd bet the farm he'll spend the 50 months in protective custody, that is unless the "work camp" he is being sent to is one of those all day racket ball prisons with no violent offenders.

  • Wv_pat

    Good work and congrats to all who cleaned this trash out of office. This is the way justice is served!

  • RogerD

    Think about this. If it only took 30 seconds of conversation to convince the judge to commit these crimes, what does that say about his character? Was this sort of behavior normal for him? Is this the one time he was caught and was there more we don't know about? I would guess the 50 month sentence is the minimum he should have gotten.

  • Navin Johnson

    please send booth goodwin and the federal boys on over to pocahontas county- there's a cesspool of corruption just a waitin' for 'em to come in and clean up.

    • Tic talk

      They'll need to stop in Nicholas County first to clean up that mess!