CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks told a federal judge Monday he didn’t devise the scheme to deny Delbarton sign maker George White of his constitutional rights but he also didn’t stop it.
Sparks was sentenced to the maximum 12 months in federal prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to a federal misdemeanor. Sparks helped convince White to switch attorneys and stop talking to a federal grand jury in hopes of protecting former Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum. In exchange, White was given a better deal on a drug charge.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston told Sparks he would have sentenced him to more prison time if he could have. U.S. District Attorney Booth Goodwin told MetroNews the sentencing strikes a balance.
“It punishes the wrongdoing while underscoring the fact that it’s important to cooperate early and fully with federal investigators,” Goodwin said.
It was information from Sparks that helped federal investigators get a handle on the scheme that also included former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and former Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden.
“Sometimes you just need that crack to go through and what happened is the dam broke,” according to Goodwin. “We were able to follow leads and go further faster.”
The federal prosecutor said what Sparks did as an elected prosecutor and representative of the court was indefensible and deserved prison time but the cooperation could not be overlooked.
“Cooperating early really accrued to his benefit and accrued very much to our benefit,” he said.
Judge Johnston sentenced Thornsbury to 50 months behind bars for his part in the scheme. He is appealing that sentence.