EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSFormer Mingo County Circuit Judge Admits Role In Conspiracy
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kennie Bass
Videographer: Larry Clark, Matt Durrett
Web Producer: Kennie Bass
Reported: Oct. 2, 2013 7:45 PM EDT
Updated: Oct. 3, 2013 9:09 AM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of conspiracy, just hours after he submitted his resignation from the bench to the West Virginia Supreme Court.
Thornsbury admitted he worked with others to deny a suspected drug dealer to hire the attorney of his choice.
Although he declined to talk on camera, Thornsbury said he took part in the scheme to protect his friend, then-Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum, from embarrassment. Thornsbury says Crum told him accusation the he broke the law were false.
The conspiracy centered around a plan to protect Crum's reputation from accusations he'd bought drugs from a campaign sign maker. Crum allegedly orchestrated the arrest of George White in February to avoid paying him a $3,000 debt. Crum, Thornsbury and several others allegedly conspired to have White fire his attorney to stop his cooperation with federal investigators.
In exchange for Thornsbury's plea, prosecutors say they will dismiss charges in a separate case in which he is accused of framing his former secretary's husband.
"A judge swears an oath to uphold the constitution and to abide by the highest standards of integrity," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said. "For a judge to have violated someone's constitutional rights is really beyond the pale. But to violate someone's rights in order to obstruct a federal investigation...that's really unthinkable."
Crum's widow Rosie, who was appointed Mingo County Sheriff after his murder and then later resigned, attended the plea hearing. She was accompanied by Kanawha County prosecutor Mark Plants, who is handling Crum's murder case.
Crum was shot in his vehicle while eating lunch in downtown Williamson in April.
In addition to requiring his resignation, the plea agreement bars Thornsbury from ever seeking elected office again. Additionally, Thornsbury says he will not fight any disbarment proceedings.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston set Thornsbury's sentencing for January 13. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Thornsbury is free on a $10,000 bond.
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