The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 24, 2013

Feds will drop one charge against Mingo judge in exchange for guilty plea to another

CHARLESTON — Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they will drop one conspiracy charge against suspended Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury in exchange for his guilty to plea to a second conspiracy that he was named in last week.

A motion filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston asks Judge Thomas E. Johnston to indefinitely postpone the deadlines in a case that accuses the longtime southern West Virginia judge of repeatedly trying to frame a romantic rival for crimes the man didn’t commit between 2008 and 2012.

Prosecutors say Thornsbury had an affair with his secretary and enlisted others in his unsuccessful schemes when she broke things off.

Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Thornsbury in a second scheme that they say was designed to protect the reputation of former sheriff Eugene Crum, who prosecutors say had bought drugs from a local sign maker.

Crum died in in April in an unrelated shooting.

Thornsbury’s attorney has declined comment on either set of charges.

The motion Tuesday says “the ends of justice and the interests of the public and the defendant are best served by continuing this case.”

The second plot allegedly targeted George Ruben White of Delbarton, who is serving one to 15 years for delivering narcotics under a plea agreement that Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks approved.

Federal prosecutors say Crum owed White $3,000 and devised a scheme to put White in prison rather than pay. Crum allegedly sent a confidential informant to buy oxycodone from White, then arranged for his arrest.  

White then met with the FBI and told them he’d sold the sheriff drugs. Prosecutors allege Crum and the others ended the flow of information by having White fire his attorney and hire one of their choosing in exchange for a lighter sentence.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is now seeking the suspension of Sparks’ law license, accusing him of egregious misconduct for failing to report unethical and illegal behavior by the judge.

Sparks denies knowledge of either scheme and says he can’t report what he doesn’t know.

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