CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury is released from federal prison next month he won’t be receiving his state pension, following a ruling handed down Friday by the state Supreme Court.
In a memorandum decision from the Court, justices unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that denied the benefits to Thornsbury and his ex-wife Dreama Thornsbury.
Michael Thornsbury was sentenced in June 2014 to spend 50 months in federal prison following his guilty plea in October 2013 to a felony charge of conspiracy against civil rights.
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.
At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston told Thornsbury that he along with his “cronies” took away White’s constitutional rights and in doing so made government “unrecognizable” in Mingo County.
A month after his sentencing, in July 2014, the state Consolidated Public Retirement Board terminated Thornbury’s right to his retirement benefits along with his ex-wife’s rights who had been awarded some of the benefits in a divorce settlement.
In its five-page memorandum decision, the High Court rejected all of Thornsbury’s arguments that he should keep his retirement including his contention that he was vested in the system before he was convicted.
“Based on the clear language of the statute, he was on notice from the beginning of his participation in these retirement systems that, for his pension to vest, his service must be honorable at all times throughout his public employment. His pension never vested because his service was not honorable at all times throughout his public service,” the decision said.
The Court also ruled Mrs. Thornsbury did not have compelling argument to receive part of her ex-husband’s benefits.
Michael Thornsbury is scheduled to be released from federal custody on March 15. He contributed in excess of $170,000 to the state public employees’ and judges’ retirement systems.