Ex-judge sentenced to resort

July 29, 2014

By Ron Gregory


It could, after all, have been worse.

For example, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston could have ordered disgraced former Mingo County circuit court Judge Michael Thornsbury to spend the rest of his life in Hamlin.

But the judge did not do that. Instead, he sentenced Thornsbury to 50 months in a federal corrections facility. One of the locations the ex-judge apparently wanted considered was a minimum-security “camp” in Pensacola, Florida. Early this week, it seems, Thornsbury reported to that facility.

Although nobody believes anyone would want to report to any penal facility for any period of time, this is about as good as it could have gotten for the former judge.

According to a 2009 Forbes magazine list, Pensacola is the second-“cushiest” institution in the country. It could be said, if one believes Forbes, that the Pensacola camp would rate “five stars” if it was a private motel. Of course, it is not.

Forbes did their ratings after Bernard Madoff, the famous fraudster, was sent to a correctional complex in Butner, North Carolina. The magazine said that was the “cushiest” site in the country, with Pensacola running a close second.

Prison camps, said the magazine, are “white-collar convicts’ destination of choice.” Apparently, Thornsbury got his selection. After rigging the naming of a jury foreman as judge, the ex-judge drew a pair of aces in his jail location.

The magazine pointed out that convicts, like Thornsbury, will be housed with similar-type prisoners. Thus, he will not spend time with an ax murderer. It is, of course, the Federal Bureau of Prisons that decides where an inmate ultimately lands.

At Pensacola, Thornsbury will be able to take regular strolls when his family comes to visit, as often as three times a week. There are no traditional bars or tiny jail cells, as pictured in movies. Family visits can include strolls through a tree-filled park.

Since Pensacola is located near a military base, there will likely be better job opportunities and recreational activities, Forbes said. Speaking of movies, the magazine said prisoners at Pensacola can regularly watch flicks at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Guards at Pensacola are typically friendlier than those at other prisons, the magazine reported.

All in all, it may not be the ideal resort to visit but, as mentioned earlier, it could have been much worse for His Dishonor.

… Former sheriff and recent Mingo County Commission candidate Lonnie Hannah has been cleared — well, sort of.

Voters may remember that Hannah’s primary opponent, Democrat County Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith, filed a last-minute election complaint against Hannah. The filing grabbed front-page headlines in the Charleston Daily Mail on election eve. Smith defeated Hannah by only 77 votes.

Now, your Secretary of State and mine, Natatlie Tennant, has concluded an investigation into the matter. Her attorney, Timothy Leach, who has already made it clear he isn’t really governed by the West Virginia Code, said the situation will be considered “educational.”

The charges involved an alleged commingling of campaign funds that was immediately corrected when Hannah’s campaign discovered it.

Interestingly, the letter Leach sent to Hannah makes it clear campaign funds cannot be mixed. But the secretary of state’s office claimed to have never even heard of the term “commingling” of funds when I asked them about a joint fundraiser this spring. That fundraiser listed just one campaign as picking up the expenses, although two candidates were raising money. Perhaps Leach should see if he can jog his own memory on the subject.

… In another aside, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper discovered a little-noted ancient Supreme Court decision that allows the state tax commissioner to institute removal proceedings when elected officials cannot perform their duties.

That makes one wonder if such an action should be taken against the Mingo County Board of Education. The state runs the Mingo school system and the elected board has no authority. Why, then, are they being paid?

… As is being correctly reported by The Logan Banner, the Logan County school board is working with the state on deficiencies found during an audit. Those who have insisted the state is taking over the Logan system and a group of people are about to be indicted are, again, off-target.

… Speaking of off-target, the esteemed drill instructor, Richard Ojeda, who teaches our young people how to be good soldiers, may not have been such a good example himself. Two fellow teachers at Chapmanville Regional High School have come forward to tell me they heard Ojeda electioneering for Congress while on school time and property at CRHS.

Hmm. I wonder if that is OK with federal prosecutors?

… It will be interesting to see if the state election commission allows Mingo County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield to withdraw as a candidate for county commission. But, then, things are always interesting in Mingo County.

Your comments, story ideas, gossip and commingling of your funds with mine are always welcome. Use my email listed or call my cell, 304-533-5185.