EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSKey Players In Judge's Alleged Corruption Scandal Won't Face Charges
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Leslie Rubin
Web Producer: Leslie Rubin
Reported: Aug. 16, 2013 6:12 PM EDT
Updated: Aug. 16, 2013 8:29 PM EDT
Mingo , Mingo County , West Virginia
Despite Mingo County Judge Michael Thornsbury allegedly enlisting help to go after his ex-lover's husband, the U.S. Attorney's Office said it will not pursue charges against those who aided him.
Investigators uncovered a tangled web of help over the last five years in an alleged attempt to rig a grand jury, and frame a romantic rival.
Prosecutors paintied a picture of a jealous judge on a mission to frame his ex-mistress's husband. Despite his power on the bench, an 18-page indictment against him lists the players in the field - help prosecutors said he enlisted to make sure Robert Woodruff paid for crimes he didn't commit.
To understand the scope of the investigation, you have to go back five years. That's when prosecutors said Thornsbury's secretary, Kim Woodruff, tried to end their love affair, citing her husband, Robert. This apparently sent the judge into a jealous fury. It was then that investigators said he asked his friend and confidant, Jeff Cline, to help take down Robert Woodruff.
Cline is a former police officer, Mingo County sheriff candidate, and a friend he thought he could trust after asking him to plant drugs on Woodruff's truck, and arranging police to stop him and search for those drugs. Federal prosecutors said Cline backed out at the last second.
But Thornsbury did not stop there, prosecutors said he convinced West Virginia State Trooper Brandon Moore to file a criminal complaint, falsely accusing Woodruff of stealing scrap metal. At first, Moore, a former trooper of the year, resisted, but eventually yielded to demands, leading to Woodruff's arrest for grand larceny in 2008.
"I had no idea nor would I have ever dreamed that a judge would be behind criminal charges being filed against someone who comitted no crime," Michael Callaghan, an attorney for Kim and Robert Woodruff, said.
On Thursday, State Police placed Moore on paid administrative leave, although U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said he is not facing federal criminal charges.
"Our administrative process is completely independent of the criminal process, not only in terms of the investigation itself, but also in terms of any potential outcomes. I have faith that this established process will serve the best interest of the public, the West Virginia State Police, and more importantly, justice itself," Col. C.R. "Jay" Smithers, superintendent of State Police, said.
In December 2008, then magistrate Eugene Crum issued a warrant for Woodruff's arrest on the false charges. The indictment alleges that Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks knew about the affair, and knew Thornsbury had great influence over Trooper Moore. Sparks disqualified himself from the case, triggering a process that would lead to the appointment of a special prosecutor from an outside county, creating a risk that the judge's scheme would be uncovered. Before that was able to happen, Crum dismissed the case.
Apparently continuing to try and rig the wheels of justice, Thornsbury appointed his friend and business partner Jarrod Fletcher to be the foreperson of the newly formed Mingo County grand jury in 2009.
Fletcher is the county's director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, making it illegal for him to serve on the grand jury because he is an officeholder, according to the indictment.
That apparently did not stop him either.
With Fletcher in the role, prosecutors said Thornsbury was able to secretly co-opt the grand jury, planning to use it to charge Woodruff criminally. That plan was also thwarted when it became public knowledge Fletcher and Thornsbury had close ties, and a deep financial relationship.
"He was counseled by Judge Thornsbury in the efforts that he undertook," Goodwin said on Thursday.
Fast forward to 2012, and his efforts continued. Then Gilbert Police officer Nathan Glanden arrested Woodruff on assault and battery charges that prosecutors said Woodruff was actually the victim of.
Thornsbury allegedly ordered Sparks to offer him a deal that would allow him to serve six months in jail, but Woodruff refused the plea and wanted to take it to trial. On the day before that trial, Sparks moved to dismiss the charges.
Despite all of the evidence now made public knowledge, the man sworn to uphold the law, is the only one facing charges.
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