Ex-Mingo judge hit with civil suit before guilty plea

By John O'Brien | Oct 9, 2013

CHARLESTON – Michael Thornsbury, the former Mingo County Circuit Court judge who has pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of a man, is now facing a civil lawsuit.

Robert Woodruff filed his lawsuit Sept. 30 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia against Thornsbury and several other defendants, including the Mingo County Commission and the commander of the State Police.

Woodruff was referred to as R.W. in an indictment filed against Thornsbury by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. On Oct. 2, Thornsbury pleaded guilty to charges in an information alleging a second scheme and resigned. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

Woodruff is the husband of Kimberly Woodruff, who was Thornsbury’s secretary.

“While working for defendant Thornsbury, Kimberly Woodruff endured sexual harassment, which included various attempts by defendant Thornsbury to coerce her into a sexual relationship with him, which she refused,” the complaint says.

“Defendant Thornsbury told plaintiff’s wife… that if her husband were ever arrested that he would be forced to terminate her from employment.”

Woodruff said he was only recently made aware of the scheme to deprive him of his rights and the attempt to seduce his wife.

Goodwin alleged Thornsbury instructed a co-conspirator to plant illegal drugs under the truck of a man known as Woodruff. Goodwin alleged this happened after the secretary broke off a romantic relationship with Thornsbury, though Woodruff’s complaint says his wife resisted the advances.

However, the co-conspirator backed out of the plan at the last minute, Goodwin alleges.

Thornsbury then told a state trooper to file a criminal complaint against Woodruff, the indictment says. The indictment alleged Woodruff was stealing scrap metal from his employer, even though Woodruff had permission to salvage the metal.

A criminal complaint was filed against R.W. in December 2008.

Thornsbury presided over the grand jury in January 2009 and picked Jarrod Fletcher, the county’s director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management with whom he co-owned real estate and a wine shop, as jury foreperson.

Goodwin alleges Thornsbury was able to co-opt the grand jury’s authority and used it to victimize Woodruff. He created a set of subpoenas that ordered Woodruff’s employer and other local companies to surrender private documents, Goodwin says.

One company resisted and discovered the business ties between Thornsbury and Fletcher, the indictment says. Thornsbury eventually abandoned his plan to use the grand jury against Woodruff, it says.

In 2012, Woodruff was charged with assault and battery. He had been involved in an altercation with two other men, one of whom drew a gun. The charges against the two men were dismissed, and Thornsbury told the county prosecutor to ensure Woodruff received six months’ home confinement, the indictment says.

After Woodruff refused a plea deal, the prosecutor dismissed the case on the eve of trial.

Woodruff is represented by Michael O. Callaghan of Neely & Callaghan in Charleston.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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