Mingo corruption: George White’s guilty plea thrown out

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — A circuit judge Friday vacated the guilty plea of a man at the center of the federal corruption case in Mingo County.

Judge John Cummings set aside George White’s guilty plea on drug charges. The ruling came after White’s attorney filed a post-conviction motion in October claiming his 6th Amendment Right to choose his legal counsel was violated.

“The judge simply looked at everything and decided he had no recourse but to set aside the guilty plea,” White’s Dave Barney said Friday on MetroNews Talkline.

White, 65, of Delbarton ,made campaign signs for late Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum. He claims when he attempted to collect the debt owed for the work he was charged by the sheriff with the drug charges. White began talking to federal authorities investigating drug activity and corruption in Mingo County. He told them of his dealings with Crum including providing the former sheriff illegal drugs.

White said then Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks and Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden leaned on him to switch attorneys in the case and he would get a lighter sentence on the charges. He did and pleaded guilty. Disgraced Judge Michael Thornsbury also participated in the scheme.

Thornsbury and Sparks have resigned their offices after pleading guilty to violating White’s constitutional rights. Baisden pleaded guilty to a separate federal crime and also resigned.

The special prosecutor in White’s case agreed with the defense that White’s original guilty plea should be vacated. Judge Cummings agreed Friday.

“He still is of the opinion that Eugene Crum owed him this money and that was one of the reasons Eugene Crum pursued him so much,” White’s attorney Butch West said Friday. “Number one he wanted him to stop talking to the feds and number two he wanted to get rid of that debt.”

West said White produced invoices Friday from the work he did for Crum which remained unpaid.

The judge’s ruling only vacated the guilty plea. The special prosecutor in the case could still choose to pursue the charges. West believed the judge didn’t go far enough.

“The court should have dismissed the case,” said West. “Our facts in the case are more egregious, the conspiracy and the whole thing smacks so bad they really need to toss it.  That’s what the Constitution is all about.”

Former Sheriff Crum, who was shot and killed outside the Mingo County Courthouse last April. Crum’s widow, Rosie Crum, has said her husband was not using illegal drugs and had paid White for the campaign signs.

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