UPDATE: Former Mingo County judge Michael Thornsbury given 50 months in prison
CHARLESTON, WV -
UPDATE: Former Mingo County Judge, Michael Thornsbury, was sentenced on Monday afternoon in Charleston Federal Court on corruption charges.
He was sentenced to 50 months in prison and three years of supervised release and he was ordered to pay a $6,000 fine. A ten year deduction was applied to his original sentence because of his cooperation that led to the convictions of former Mingo County commissioner, David Baisden, and former Mingo County prosecutor, Michael Sparks. His original sentence would have been for 60 months with three years of supervised release.
Thornsbury pleaded guilty in October to depriving Mingo citizen, George White, of his constitutional rights by denying him a fair court case. This was in the effort to protect former Mingo Sheriff, Eugene Crum, from illegal drug use charges.
George White spoke in court this afternoon and told his side of the story about how this situation has ruined his life. White said "if the system had worked for me, I wouldn't have spent all of this time and all of this stress. I wouldn't be fearing for my life". He said he no longer feels safe in Mingo County and doesn't know if his reputation will ever be restored. He lost not only his good name, but also his family business and source of income from the charges he faced.
Thornsbury also addressed the courtroom to explain his regrets about the role he played in the Mingo County Corruption case. He told the judge "I allowed the law to be clouded by my loyalty, ambition and pride" he then went on to say that "I could have and should have stopped the abuse of council". He stated that because of this downfall, he lost his marriage of 37 years, his job, his pension, and the respect of his peers. He said that he will mentally punish himself every day for the rest of his life, even after his jail time has expired.
Federal Prosecutors say that Michael Thornsbury should be made an example and serve a substantial stay in jail because he played a huge role in the corruption of Mingo County. It may be years before the structure and security of the Mingo County judicial system is once again secured.
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.
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.
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