Former Mingo Co. judge pleads guilty to federal conspiracy charg - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Mingo County - Judge Thornsbury - Pleads Guilty

Former Mingo Co. judge pleads guilty to federal conspiracy charge

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Former Mingo County Circuit Court judge Michael Thornsbury appeared in court Wednesday.

Thornsbury pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive a man of his constitutional rights in a ploy to protect the late Sheriff Eugene Crum.

"For a judge to violate someone's constitutional rights is really beyond the pale," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. "But to violate someone's rights in order to obstruct a federal investigation is really unthinkable."

The judge submitted his resignation letter Wednesday before the hearing. The state Supreme Court suspended his law license soon after Thornsbury's indictment. Retired Cabell County Circuit Judge John Cummings was appointed to fill in for Thornsbury.

A federal grand jury indicted Thornsbury in August on two counts of conspiracy to deprive a man of his constitutional rights. Federal prosecutors said Thornsbury tried to frame his romantic rival, his secretary's husband, in several schemes.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Ruby filed a separate information Sept. 19, outlining another incident where Thornsbury conspired to deprive a drug dealer of his constitutional rights.

The court document claimed Thornsbury worked with Mingo Co. Commissioner Dave Baisden, and Prosecutor Michael Sparks to protect the late Sheriff Eugene Crum from a federal investigation.

(Late Sheriff Eugene Crum linked to federal investigation)

Prosecutors claim Crum bought prescription pills from a man named George White, a Delbarton native who made signs for several political candidates.

During Crum's first month in office as sheriff, he arranged for deputies to arrest White.

The information filed claims Crum and other officials learned White had hired a lawyer who was possibly communicating with the FBI.

The group reportedly told White's brother that if George hired another attorney, provided by them, they would guarantee White a good plea deal.

White fired his lawyer, Charles "Butch" West, and hired former Mingo County prosecutor Ron Rumora.

Thornsbury sentenced White between 1 and 15 years.  A hearing he scheduled to reconsider his sentence was delayed last month.  White remains in Southwestern Regional Jail. He previously declined a request for an interview.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said federal prosecutors will drop the initial charges against Thornsbury once he is sentenced. They granted Thornsbury "use immunity," which means information he provides cannot be used against him.

Crum's widow, Rosie Crum, also came to the hearing Wednesday.  She was flanked by her lawyer, Timothy Koontz, and Kanawha County prosecutors.

Tennis Maynard is accused of killing Eugene Crum as he was eating lunch in his police cruiser April 3, just three months into his term. Mingo County prosecutor Michael Sparks recused himself from the case in September.

Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants agreed to accept the case.

Thornsbury faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13.