During an interview on Metronews Talkline, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said former Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury ran Mingo County like “Boss Hog,” a reference to the greedy, sleazy character from the TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

It would be comical if it weren’t so close to the truth.

During his 17 years on the bench as Mingo County’s only circuit judge, Thornsbury devolved into a petty tyrant.  He and his minions ran Mingo County, subjugating the law to their own interests.

Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston called Thornsbury’s conduct “appalling and unacceptable” as he sentenced him to just over four years in prison for his abuse of power.

Technically, Thornsbury only admitted to participating in a scheme to try to protect Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum (who has since been murdered) from a federal investigation.  Thornsbury said in court Monday that he regretted the “30 second conversation” he had with Crum about the plan.

Reducing the malfeasance to a poor decision based on a brief conversation must be Thornsbury’s way of justifying his conduct, and Judge Johnston didn’t let him get away with it.  Instead, the judge reviewed the other charges against Thornsbury, which federal prosecutors were ready to pursue had he not pleaded guilty.

For example, federal investigators say Thornsbury tried to have his secretary’s husband arrested on drug charges because she rejected the judge’s romantic advances.

Thornsbury isn’t alone.  Dave Baisden has pleaded guilty to a ham-handed extortion attempt and has resigned his Mingo County Commission seat.  Michael Sparks was forced to resign as the county’s prosecuting attorney after pleading guilty to corruption.

Former Mingo County Magistrate Dallas Toler pleaded guilty to vote fraud in connection with the “Team Mingo” slate of candidates.  While Toler was awaiting his sentencing, he was arrested on charges of trying to sell cocaine.  A former State Trooper of the Year, Brandon Moore, has left the force after being implicated in the Mingo County morass and then cooperating with investigators.

The judge, the prosecutor, a county commissioner, a magistrate, a state trooper—these are the people who were supposed to be enforcing the law, not violating it.  Their actions have a demoralizing effect. When public officials so blatantly bend the morality curve, why should anyone else believe they have to follow the rules?

Federal investigators say they’re continuing their probe, and still more Mingo County officials may fall.  Williamson Daily News sports editor Kyle Lovern said on Talkline, “For months now, we’ve heard rumors that there will be more indictments with other elected officials, so everyone is wondering when that’s going to occur.”

Lovern says he hopes that happens because, “We’d like to see a real clean sweep here.”

That would be helpful to the long-suffering folks of Mingo County, unless the culture of corruption is so strong that the effort is like pushing sands against the tide.




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  • Randy

    Hoppy. Mingo Co more ass. I don't think we need your crude sexual innuendo as part of your commentary. I'm sure there are many fine babes in Mingo Co, but I'm sure we have just as many hotties per capita in 54 other counties. Objectifying chicks no matter how hot, tan, firm,stacked, and easy is just plain wrong. You should keep your commentary out of the stone age.

  • navin johnson

    if u think mingo is bass ackwards, bring booth goodwin and the federal boys on over to clean up the cesspool in pocahontas county.
    boss hog and the corrupt county cops and kangaroo courts aint got nuthin' on the going ons in our lil' county.

  • Michael Baisden

    Happy calling Kyle lovers the news editor is a slap in the face of everyone there. Lovers is the sports editor and Mingo county politics is not sport it's deadly. Anyway he has not been to one news story and has not written the first story nor has he edited any

  • James Hatfield

    Mr. Blankenship could care less what goes on in that courthouse.

  • Miles

    Somewhere.... Don Blankenship is rubbing his hands together.

  • Bill MC

    The biggest problem we face as a country is that too many people care more about their favorite sports team winning or losing, than who is elected or how they run our country after taking office!

  • Wirerowe

    Although I have some glancing familiarity with politics in this county I only know what I read. It seems to me multifaceted built on a culture of intimidation and fear caused in part by a one industry economy and for all intents a one party political system.

  • JMB

    Well written Hoppy, you could also write nearly the same thing about here in Harrison County as well with all that's gone on in the last few years.

  • FungoJoe

    You say "When public officials so blatantly bend the morality curve" got me to laugh. This is WV. This is Mingo County. Where democrats have been the elected elite for decades. Do you not remember the 2012 Democrat National Convention? They made a very public display of not wanting the reference to God named anywhere in their platform. Liberals are a God-less, moralless, group of elitists that only possess a greed for power and money.

  • Picklebee

    Yes, thanks to Mr. Goodwin, Mingo County is being cleaned up. But, the state has not attempted to clean up the "Router-gate fraud case". Why?
    Must we tax payers rely only on Mr.Goodwin to go after state fraud?

  • Jesse's girl

    In his first address to congress, November 23, 1797, President John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the second President said:
    “Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice ambition revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

    Some of us see the principles set forth by the Founding Fathers a wee bit more important than "Dancing With the Stars."

    As Mingo County goes, so goes WV, so goes the United States of America.

    • Bill Hill

      Well said. The Moorefield Examiner has been running a list from time to time, of those holding office in West Virginia who have been named in wrong-doing. Each time the listing has appeared it has contained different people from the time before. Additionally, each time the list has be lengthy. Corruption is rampant in our government from the local level on up

      Maybe instead of down playing the founders, we should take the time to listen to them.

      • Jesse's girl

        The Founding Fathers had a profound understanding of human nature. They relied on the citizens being mature, interested and exercising individual restraint.

        They also had a profound knowledge and understanding of the evils of an all-powerful centralized government.

        Human nature and the evils of an all-powerful government do not change. By the way, "good intentions" count for zilch. "Results" count for 100%.

  • Mason County Contrarian

    Thank goodness for the Feds. I doubt state investigators would have the chutzpah to continue the latest round of dry cleaning.

    And yet we desire economic and social development in the withering coalfields of southern West Virginia?


  • CaptainQ

    Hoppy, aren't most county governments in this state operated on the 'Dukes of Hazzard' model? Plenty of Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P Coaltrane types all over the Mountain State. This isn't news, unless, as in Mingo County, they get caught.

    • Fred

      And yet, we had a column yesterday from Hoppy about how great it is, to have home rule and let the cities and towns have more power. Like I said yesterday, that's precisely what the elected officials in places like Williamson need. More power. Because they been such great stewards of the power they already have.

  • thornton

    Boss Hogg blast from 1983...."Rosco, zip your flappin' lip. You're lettin' the cold air into your empty head".

    That's the problem, too many empty heads. Considering the jail doors bumping and beckoning politicos lately.....it's the problem well beyond Bloody Mingo.

  • The bookman

    The mentality that perpetuates this kind of behavior runs deep in Mingo County. Look no further than the horrific acts at Burch Middle School. This isn't a disregard for the law, it is a lawless society. Virtually anyone with the power to do so uses whatever power they have to further their own personal interest. The problems are deep, so let's hope they use a big shovel.