Former judge files appeal of federal sentencing

Rachel Dove rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

June 20, 2014

By Rachel Dove


CHARLESTON - Former Mingo County Circuit Court judge Michael Thornsbury has filed notice of an appeal of his sentencing earlier this month in U.S. District Court.

On Thursday afternoon, Stephen G. Jory, Thornsbury’s attorney, filed a notice to appeal the sentence and final judgment imposed upon his client during the June 9 hearing in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

Thornsbury had entered a guilty plea to a single court information of conspiring to deny a defendant (George White) of his civil rights to the counsel of his choice, upon agreeing that another charge of violating the rights of his former mistress’s husband be dismissed. Upon sentencing, U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston gave the disgraced judge a total of 60 months in a federal penitentiary, with 10 months being shaved off for his cooperation in the Mingo County political corruption investigation that has resulted in several guilty pleas to date, as well as other individuals now being under suspicion for possible crimes and violations.

The defendant also was levied a $6,000 fine and was ordered to spend three years on supervised parole upon his release from prison.

Sentencing guidelines called for a period of 30-37 months for this particular charge, but could have gone as long as 10 years behind bars. After speaking about the role Thornsbury played as the only judge in Mingo County, and being solely responsible for seeing that justice was served, prosecutors felt he should have been held to a higher standard.

Johnston compared Thornsbury’s power to that of a Third World dictator and said that a stiffer sentence in this case was necessary to send a strong message to other elected officials that this type of behavior would never be tolerated.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily News on Friday, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin issued the following statement concerning Thornsbury’s appeal:

“Thornsbury has admitted to an egregious abuse of the power he held as Mingo County’s sole circuit judge. He wrongfully imprisoned a man to protect his political faction’s dominance. And as Judge Johnston found, based on facts to which Thornsbury did not object, Thornsbury made multiple attempts to wrongfully imprison a second man — the husband of Thornsbury’s lover — to further a romantic affair.

“He disgraced his office and trampled the Constitution of the United States. I have no doubt that Thornsbury’s conviction and sentence will be resoundingly affirmed,” Goodwin said.

A date has not been set for the appeal that will be heard in Richmond, Va., before the U.S. District Court of Appeals.