ABC News on September 19, 2013 released the following:
“By VICKI SMITH Associated Press
A West Virginia judge already facing corruption allegations was charged Thursday in a conspiracy that federal prosecutors say was cooked up to protect a now-deceased sheriff from revelations that he’d bought drugs.
The complex conspiracy laid out in court documents also involves a local prosecutor and a commissioner in Mingo County, a coalfields community along the Kentucky border that’s long been plagued by corruption.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said the goal of the plot was to stop a confidential informant from telling the FBI about his drug deals with late Sheriff Eugene Crum by putting the dealer behind bars.
Suspended Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury was charged with one count of conspiracy in a document called an information, signaling he is cooperating with federal prosecutors and may plead guilty.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Thornsbury’s attorney, Stephen Jory, did not immediately comment.
The U.S. attorney’s office declined to say whether prosecutor Michael Sparks or County Commissioner Dave Baisden will be charged. Sparks did not immediately return a message.
The sheriff, meanwhile, died in an April shooting apparently unrelated to the conspiracy. His widow, Rosie Crum, did not immediately respond to a message left at her home.
Rodney Miller, executive director of the West Virginia Sheriffs Association, called the revelations about Crum “disheartening” and a “a black eye” for all 55 county departments. Miller said his organization would never condone the kind of activity alleged by prosecutors.
“It flies in the face of what we do and what we stand for … and we don’t like that,” he said.
The judge was indicted last month, accused of abusing his power in a separate case. Prosecutors say Thornsbury had an affair with his secretary and tried to frame her husband repeatedly between 2008 and 2012 after she broke things off.
He is accused of enlisting the help of a state trooper and commandeering the grand jury and was set to stand trial next month. Prosecutors didn’t say how the new case will affect those charges.
The new charges against the judge paint a picture of a tightknit team of Mingo County officials ganging up on a local sign maker identified only as G.W. in the court documents.
The slain sheriff, who was also a longtime magistrate, was elected last fall on a campaign to clean up a pervasive drug problem. While campaigning, he bought signs and other materials from G.W. and still owed him $3,000 when he took office in January, the court document says.
When G.W. demanded payment, prosecutors say, Crum sent a confidential informant to buy the prescription painkiller oxycodone from him. Prosecutors say G.W. was arrested Feb. 1.
G.W. then hired an attorney and met with FBI agents. Prosecutors say he told agents he had sold narcotics to Crum “on multiple occasions” while he was the magistrate.
Crum and Sparks then went to the judge, prosecutors say, and told him that G.W. had incriminated the sheriff. Prosecutors say the group let G.W. know that if he fired his attorney and replaced him with one preferred by the judge, he could get a light sentence.
G.W. did, though the court filing does not identify either the new attorney or say what sentence he ultimately got. It says only that Sparks “arranged for a more favorable sentence … as a reward.”
Prosecutors say that after G.W. complied, Crum directed one of his deputies to have G.W. obtain a statement claiming he’d never sold the sheriff drugs.
Crum, 59, died in a downtown Williamson parking lot as he ate lunch in his car.
Tennis Melvin Maynard, a onetime boxing student of Crum’s, is charged with first-degree murder and awaiting trial. Maynard’s family claims the former sheriff had molested him and that the prosecutor’s office ignored his reports. Sparks has denied those claims.
On Wednesday, Sparks recused himself from Maynard’s case, citing only “an emerging conflict of interest.”
Crum was hired last summer as a special investigator in Sparks’ office while he campaigned for sheriff.
The day he was killed, Crum was keeping watch on a former “pill mill,” a place that had been shut down for illegally dispensing prescription drugs, to be sure it didn’t reopen.”
Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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