Former prosecutor’s sentencing postponed until June

Rachel Dove rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

April 22, 2014

By Rachel Dove


CHARLESTON - According to information released Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s office, the sentencing of former Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks, which had been set for Thursday, has been pushed back until June 16.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston stated in court records that he chose to delay the sentencing until June 16 “for reasons appearing to the court.”

Sparks had entered a guilty plea last fall to one count of deprivation of rights under the color of law, a misdemeanor. He faces a maximum one year in prison and a fine up to $100,000. In a statement regarding Sparks’ case that was released earlier this year by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, the prosecution is asking that Sparks serve the entire 12 months behind bars for his part in an alleged scheme to protect Eugene Crum, the former sheriff of Mingo County, who was fatally shot on April 3, 2013.

This is the second time Sparks’ sentencing has been delayed. Earlier this year, his attorney requested the date be moved because of a scheduling conflict. Based on Sparks’ presentencing report, federal advisory guidelines would have called for a sentence between 27 and 33 months, according to prosecutors. The attorneys handling the case against Sparks previously said they plan to file a substantial-assistance motion because of Sparks’ cooperation.

Michael Thornsbury, Mingo’s former circuit judge, also admitted to participating in the plot to keep Delbarton resident George White from telling federal agents he gave prescription painkillers to Crum and has entered a guilty plea in the case.

Charges involving allegations that the former circuit judge conspired with others to have the husband of his former mistress jailed on fabricated charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement. Johnston also delayed Thornsbury’s sentencing earlier this month for the second time until June “for reasons appearing to the court.”

Thornsbury faces a maximum 10 years in jail for conspiring to deprive White of his constitutional rights, which is a felon. In December, prosecutors asked Johnston to delay Thornsbury’s sentencing so they could further investigate information he had provided in a corruption probe, since he reportedly was assisting with the political corruption investigation involving several other elected officials in Mingo County. The information and cooperation provided by Thornsbury could make him eligible for a lighter sentence, prosecutors previously wrote in court documents.

George White owned a sign shop in Delbarton, and he claims that Crum owed him about $3,000 for election campaign materials, but instead of paying the bill, Crum had White arrested for selling drugs, federal prosecutors say. Court documents say that White, with the help of lawyer Charles “Butch” West, then began talking to federal agents about giving prescription pain medication to Crum.

According to federal prosecutors, former Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden and Crum told Sparks they would persuade White to fire West and hire an attorney of their choice to keep them from talking further with federal investigators. Baisden, according to the stipulation of facts Sparks pleaded guilty to, offered White a more favorable plea agreement if he agreed to the terms. After White fired West, Sparks allegedly gave White the more favorable plea agreement.

Baisden was sentenced earlier this year to 20 months in federal prison on an unrelated extortion charge. White’s guilty plea was thrown out and the charges against him were dismissed earlier this year, and he has since filed a lawsuit against those he claims framed him for a crime he did not commit.