CHARLESTON -- Former Mingo County Judge Michael Thornsbury has been sentenced to 50 months in federal prison.
Thornsbury, who had pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston. Thornsbury did face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. He was fined $6,000.
Last week, Thornsbury's attorney, Stephen Jory, asked the court for leniency. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin also filed a motion asking for 10 months to be taken off Thornsbury's sentence for assistance he has provided in the ongoing federal probe into corruption in Mingo County.
Federal officials claim Thornsbury and other Mingo County officials -- including former Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks and former Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden -- conspired to keep a local businessman from talking to the FBI about prescription pain medication and illegal campaign contributions received by Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum. Crum was shot and killed in a Williamson parking lot last year.
"Mr. Thornsbury's conduct was shocking and appalling," Goodwin said Monday. "It was worthy of a stiff sentence. I'd like to see this whole episode be a call to action for all of us to make sure that this 'Bogg Hogg' style of politics is a thing of the past -- because it simply can't be a part of our future."
During Monday's hearing, Johnston compared Thornsbury's abuses of office to actions that happen in third world countries.
According to documents, Crum allegedly owed money to signmaker George White for materials he used in his 2012 election campaign. Officials said Crum then sent an informant to buy drugs from White. Crum then had White arrested.
White’s attorney apparently told him to speak to the FBI about providing pills to Crum when he was a Mingo County magistrate, but officials say Thornsbury and the others coerced White to hire another attorney. White was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
With Monday's sentence, Thornsbury became the third former Mingo County official sent to federal prison in the federal corruption probe.
He joins Baisden, sentenced in January to 20 months’ imprisonment, and former Mingo County chief magistrate Dallas Toler, sentenced in March to 27 months in prison.
All three officials resigned their offices after being charged with federal crimes. Sparks, the fourth official charged in the investigation, has also resigned as a result of the charge against him and is scheduled to be sentenced July 7, 2014.
Thornsbury was Mingo County’s only circuit judge for 17 years. Last month, he was sued by a former Mingo County deputy circuit clerk who claims Thornsbury slandered her and had her fired.
Candice Harper, who is Thornsbury's niece, filed her lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court against Thornsbury, Mingo County Director of 911 and Mingo County Director of Homeland Security Jarrod Fletcher, state Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury and the Mingo County Commission.
Harper says that in the spring of 2009, she learned Thornsbury was having an affair with a woman in the Mingo County Probation Office. That woman later became his secretary, Harper claims. She also says Thornsbury had “various affairs with women in the community.”
When Thornsbury learned Harper knew of the affair, he “had great fear that plaintiff would tell Thornsbury’s wife about the affair.” That’s when Harper’s relationship with Thornsbury “soured dramatically,” according to the complaint.
She says Thornsbury and Crum conspired to force her out of her job.
Thornsbury has been named in other civil litigation. In federal court, two lawsuits allege Thornsbury repeatedly tried to frame Robert Woodruff in an effort to get his wife Kimberly Woodruff to resume a romantic relationship with him. The state Supreme Court’s insurance provider — National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh — filed documents last month saying it didn’t have to cover those claims because Thornsbury wasn’t acting in the capacity as a judge.
Also last month, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed Family Court Judge Miki Thompson as Mingo Circuit Judge shortly after she won the primary election for the seat. Two senior status judges had been presiding in Mingo County since Thorsnbury’s resignation last year.
The investigation of corruption in Mingo County is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the West Virginia State Police. Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven R. Ruby and Assistant United States Attorney C. Haley Bunn are in charge of the prosecutions.