Mingo Judge makes first court appearance as defendant

By Debbie Rolen

August 16, 2013

Rachel Baldwin

Staff Writer

CHARLESTON - A press conference held in the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Charleston began by the U.S. Attorney reminding the media present in the courtroom that an indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The indictment U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin was referring to was one that was returned Wednesday evening by the federal grand jury against Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, charging him with of two counts of conspiracy against rights.

Thornsbury, accompanied by his attorney Stephen Jory, of Elkins, turned himself in to U.S. Marshals at the federal courthouse Thursday afternoon, shortly after federal investigators, U.S. Marshals and West Virginia State Police troopers swarmed the town of Williamson following the two sealed indictments being returned on Thornsbury and County Commissioner David L. Baisden. Baisden was taken into custody at the County Garage. Thornsbury opted instead to travel to Charleston on his own accord.

Thornsbury was ushered into the courtroom in ankle shackles and handcuffs, accompanied by the marshals. Federal Judge James Tinsley presided over the hearing, reading the circuit judge his rights and explaining how the matter would be addressed by the court. Thornsbury was not considered a flight risk, nor was he considered a danger to society, and the probation department recommended that he be allowed to post a $10,000 unsecured bond. He will be formally arraigned on Wednesday, August 21st, at 10 a.m. in federal court and will enter a plea at that time.

There were several stipulations that accompanied the right to be released on bond, such as only traveling inside the boundaries of Southern West Virginia unless permission to be outside those perimeters is granted. Thornsbury was ordered to remove any and all firearms from his home immediately after arriving back from court and has to also surrender his (expired) passport. He must not break any federal, state or county laws and he must submit to drug screenings. If he does not abide by the conditions of his release, bond could be revoked and additional charges could be added.

A list of names was read by Steven Ruby who serves as the assistant U.S. Attorney, whom Thornsbury is not allowed to have any contact with for reasons that most have been identified as witnesses or potential witnesses in this case, or are connected with the judge in other situations and circumstances. Those names are as follows:

Jerrod Fletcher, Michael Sparks, Jeff Cline, Roland Fields, Bill Davis, Greg “Hootie” Smith, John Mark Hubbard, Kathy Wicker, Matthew Chandler, WVSP Trooper Brandon Moore, WVSP Trooper Stuart Harper, WVSP Trooper C. Kuhn, WVSP Trooper L. Goldie, Kimberly Woodruff, Robert Woodruff, Dallas Toler, Steven Walls, James “Buck” Harless, Geo Cline, and several others that include mining companies.

After being released from custody, Thornsbury and his attorney were swarmed by members of the media who were asking questions such as “are you guilty?” to which the judge replied “absolutely not”. He was asked what he thought the outcome of these allegations would be and answered with “I will be acquitted”. When questioned as to what he based that answer on, Thorsnbury quickly replied, “Because I am not guilty.”

The W.Va. Supreme Court has recommended that Senior Status Judge John Cummings from Cabell County be named to temporarily replace Thornsbury as the Circuit Court Judge in Mingo County. In addition, Senior Status Judge Tom McHugh.

Additional information on this indictment will be released to the public as soon as it becomes available.