Federal sentencing for former judge could be postponed
Rachel Baldwin email@example.com
CHARLESTON - Former Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury may receive a temporary reprieve on his prison sentencing, since federal prosecutors want more time to investigate information he has been providing them concerning political corruption and his fellow members of ‘Team Mingo.”
Thornsbury pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to deprive a drug suspect of his constitutional rights to prevent or compromise an investigation into the county’s sheriff. As of now, his sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13.
In a motion filed Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby asked a federal judge to delay sentencing for 90 days.
“Thornsbury is cooperating with the United States and has provided information about activities that we are now actively investigating,” Ruby stated in the motion.
The motion says that, depending on the value of the information Thornsbury provides federal prosecutors, he could become eligible for a lighter sentence.
Thornsbury, 57, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston sentences him. He remains free on $10,000 bail. He had served as the county’s only circuit judge since 1997, and resigned as part of his plea deal with prosecutors.
According to the federal charge against Thornsbury, former Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum, who is described in the charge as the judge’s “close associate and political ally,” bought several thousand dollars worth of signs and other promotional campaign items on credit from George White’s sign shop in Delbarton. Federal agents allege that after Crum was elected sheriff, instead of paying his $3,000 bill, he sent an undercover police officer to buy oxycodone tablets from White.
After White’s arrest, federal investigators approached his lawyer, former Williamson mayor Charles “Butch” West, and asked to talk to White about allegations that he provided drugs to Crum. White told FBI agents that, on “multiple occasions prior to his arrest, he unlawfully provided Crum with prescription narcotic pills at Crum’s request,” prosecutors said.
Federal prosecutors said Crum soon learned what White had told FBI agents, and that a meeting was arranged with White’s brother. Prosecutors said Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden, Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks and Crum devised a scheme to get White to switch attorneys in exchange for a lighter sentence from Thornsbury.
Senior Status Circuit Judge John Cummings threw out White’s conviction last week but did not dismiss the charges. The case against White is now back to square one and will start from scratch.
Johnston approves Thornsbury’s plea agreement, prosecutors will dismiss charges that Thornsbury violated the constitutional rights of his former secretary’s husband by trying to get him arrested on trumped-up charges.
In Thursday’s motion, federal prosecutors also said they want Thornsbury available for meetings with them, and that sentencing him in January would make that difficult.
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