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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Comments

  • 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

    Hoppy,
    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?

    Amazing.

  • 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.

  • Mike Baisden

    Hoppy: I listened to your interview yesterday with Kyle Lovern of the Williamson Daily News. First of all Lovern is to Reporting as Mr. Obama is to leadership.

    Lovern is not the news director, he is the sports editor. I have not seen him at any event where a reporter should be; nor has he written one article on the subject. He is a glory hound stealing the true accolades from Ms. Rachel Dove who has been at every one of these events covering this story. She has been threatened for her coverage and has her family threatened, and has had a vehicle damaged after one particular story was printed.

    Lovern was not within 50 miles of the Federal Courthouse and couldn't find his way inside if forced to do so. Worse yet, he is saying that the Great H. Kercheval called him for the interview. I find that hardly credible.

    Give credit where credit is due. Dove is the reporter down there. She kinda reminds me of the actress (her name escapes me) who played opposite Cary Grant in the movie "My favorite Brunette." Hildy Johnson was Tough, not hard to look at, and a good reporter

    • Jason412

      +1

      I have no problems with minimum security prisons for non-violent offenders. What I do have a problem with is country club prisons where only the privileged of society are sentenced.

      I also have a problem with the very minimal sentence given. Yesterday on Talkline Goodwin said something along the lines of "4 years is a very long time", despite the fact he hands out sentences far exceeding 4 years to petty criminals whose crimes have had far less of an impact on their community.

      The Barbour Co. Sheriff who was just sentenced provides another outrageous example. Here is a man who broke the law numerous times while Sheriff, and possibly used his authority to sexually assault several young girls.

      Instead of being prosecuted to the full extent of the law, the prosecutor jumped at the first, and easiest charge, they could get him on. Now instead of possibly spending the majority of or the rest of his life in prison for the heinous crimes he committed he'll be back on the streets in under a year. He will also probably spend his time at some country club playing racquetball, right beside Thornsbury.

      The rich, politicians, and crooked cops, should not have their own prisons. If a 20 year old pot dealer is going to be thrown into cells with the worst of society, a judge or cop who abuse their power for personal gain should be right beside them.`

      • Jason412

        Woops, that was supposed to be +1 to Jim N Charleston. My mistake.

  • JimNCharleston

    Skippy,

    You do know that Thornsbury is putting in 50 months at a MINIMUM security "prison" if you want to call it a prison. This is NOT hard time. This is like "The Biggest Loser" ranch with a fence & better food.

    What a legal system where a guy can behave like a 3rd world war lord and then get to pick where his MINIMUM security housing will be. Got to love the Good Ole Boy System. God Bless America.

    I'm Jim Mrtle Beach
    All I Got
    l8r

    • Hop'sHip

      I'm willing to bet that Jim, who seems to be on perpetual vacation, is the beneficiary of a Good Ole Boy system of his own.

  • Very sad

    We need to quickly add another industry to WV in lieu of coal mining which is the singular labor category is many parts of the state. Nothing will change when so many are dependent on one job segment. This dependence spawns much of the corrupt activity and subjects the labor pool and citizens to the world of no choice and no option but to agree to the tyrants demands. We need a miracle or a brilliant visionary to lead us out of this stranglehold.

  • Medman

    The Mingo County fiasco is another example of why we need to consolidate the 55 counties in this state into twenty or less. The savings alone would make that worth the effort, but more importantly it would break the eternal cycle of political corruption and fraud that has plagued this State for 150 yrs. But, we all know it will never happen.

  • Ed Jones

    Unfortunately, there is no hope for Mingo County or southern West Virginia. Caught between the corrupt politicians and the "Friends of Coal"' the folks in Southern West Virginia do not have a chance. About every ten years the federal prosecutor cleans out a county and another round of corrupt politicians fill the void. I was born and raised in southern West Virginia and I have concluded the pattern of electing corrupt politicians will never change.

    • Mike Baisden

      Hoppy

      Mr. Jones is wrong about no hope for Mingo County. There is hope in Mingo County from two directions: One from the voters themselves. With a marginal turnout of voters it is very easy to buy an office in Mingo County. Look at what the candidates spend and compare it to what it pays for a good idea as to how much they are willing to spend therefore one hope is to increase voter turnout in Mingo County. Low voter turnout means that it takes less to purchase the office; two from the Federal Government. They have the information, we know that because the sentences for Thornsbury and for Baisden was decreased because of their cooperation with authorities. Cooperation on what? We have not seen any more indictments. If these two jailbirds cooperated on info, where is the result? There have been rumors flying for years about many others being indicted, but thus far no results.

      I posed this question to the federal prosecutor on Monday, and got the stock answer, "Oh there are more coming" and that was the closest I could get to an anwer. Anyway there is always hope, but it takes less antipathy from the voters and more results from the feds.

      Mike Baisden

      • Hillbilly

        I GUARANTEE you that if every one of the fallen people here (judge, prosecutor, commissioner, etc) were back on the next election ballot, they would get reelected... hands down. They might even get a few ghost votes...

    • Silas Lynch

      As you describe it, it sounds more like a "people problem" more so than a political or outside influence problem, to me.