Motion to dismiss several defendants in slandered Mingo magistrate suit filed

By Kyla Asbury | Sep 22, 2014

CHARLESTON – A motion to dismiss has been filed in a lawsuit against former Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and other officials.

On Sept. 10, a hearing was held in which the defendants' attorneys asked Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King to dismiss several officials from the complaint, which was made by Mingo Magistrate Deloris "Dee" Sidebottom.

The attorneys for Trooper Brandon Moore, W.Va. State Police Col. Jay Smithers, former Mingo prosecutor Michael Sparks and the Mingo County Commission argued that either no cause of action was asserted against their clients or that the lawsuit was filed too late, considering the timeline of the allegations.

King did not rule on the motions, but asked the attorneys to present proposed orders that he would rule on later.

The lawsuit, which was filed July 14 by Sidebottom  names Thornsbury, Moore, Smithers, Sparks, the Mingo County Commission and State Supreme Court Administrator Steven Canterbury, as defendants in the suit.

Thornsbury’s attorney, William Slicer, also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming it was filed past the statute of limitations.

King asked other attorneys to submit proposed orders, saying he wanted to resolve motions quickly so attorneys could get discovery going.

Sidebottom claims from 2008 to 2013, Thornsbury, Sparks and Moore conspired to force her to retire so they could replace her with a magistrate who would comply with their wishes.

She claims the defendants also schemed to get her to retire by filing "meritless complaints" with the Judicial Investigation.

In her complaint, Sidebottom alleged she was prohibited from hearing any criminal matters involving the Mingo County prosecuting attorney's office after Williamson resident Sparks filed a motion to disqualify her, saying she was biased against the office.

Because criminal cases constitute the vast majority of Sidebottom’s caseload, she was essentially stripped of her duties, according to the complaint.

Sidebottom denied all of the allegations against her, but Thornsbury removed her response to Sparks's motion, and, eventually, the motion was dismissed and found to be meritless. However, not before the defendants informed the local media of the motion.

Not only did Sidebottom face false allegations, she claimed she was also subjected to sexual harassment by Thornsbury.

For instance, he asked Sidebottom to go out to lunch with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays and to a local coffee shop on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, according to the complaint. He also asked her to go to New York and Chicago with him for romantic getaway, the suit states.

In addition to Thornsbury and Sparks, Sidebottom claims Moore brought an ethics complaint against her for a plea deal she refused to accept. The complaint was eventually dismissed, according to the suit.

Sidebottom alleges sexual harassment, hostile work environment, slander and negligent inflection of emotional distress against the defendants. She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, plus other relief the court deems just.

She is being represented by attorneys Michael O. Callaghan and Joshua R. Martin of Neely and Callaghan in Charleston and Della-Cline Gentile of Cline Law Office in Williamson.

In June, Thornsbury was sentenced to 50 months in federal prison. After pleading guilty to federal conspiracy charges, he also was fined $6,000. In July, he reported to the minimum-security Federal Prison Camp Pensacola in Florida.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 14-C-1253

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