April 6, 2014
By Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — Former Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden will remain free a while longer, after a federal judge set the date for him to report to prison in June.
U.S. District Court Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. had originally scheduled Baisden, 67, to report Friday, but the date was extended to June 13 in a ruling by Copenhaver on Thursday, according to court spokeswoman Robin Justice.
Last October, Baisden pleaded guilty to extortion regarding his attempt to get a Williamson tire dealer to sell him tires for his personal vehicle at the governmental-discount price. Baisden, who at the time was the county purchasing agent, threatened to stop the county government from buying tires from the supplier if his demands were not met.
Copenhaver initially sentenced Baisden to 20 months in prison and ordered him to pay $7,700 in restitution to two tire companies. Baisden’s crime apparently caught the attention of federal investigators who were looking into election fraud and other possible corruption in Mingo County.
Baisden has apologized for his actions. Many claim that he was a major figure in precinct organizing in recent elections and was a member of “Team Mingo.” Two other Team Mingo members, Prosecutor Michael Sparks and Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, have pleaded guilty to corruption and await reporting to federal correctional facilities.
Baisden told the judge at the time of his sentencing, “All my life I wanted to help people. Look at my lifelong achievements, not my mistakes.”
The former commissioner’s attorney, Jim Cagle of Charleston, has said that more than 1,000 Mingo County residents signed a petition supporting Baisden, in spite of his guilty plea.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin had asked that Baisden be sentenced to 24 to 36 months in prison. “Justice absolutely cannot be a popularity contest,” Goodwin said.
In setting the date for Baisden to self-report to prison, Copenhaver said he he set the April 4 deadline to allow the ex-commissioner 60 days to address some health concerns. The new ruling said Cagle has shown the court that Baisden must undergo daily radiation treatment through early May. He will then need to recuperate for four to six weeks, the order says.