By Rachel Dove
CHARLESTON - The sentencing date for former Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks has been pushed back for a week, according to federal court officials.
Sparks will be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston on March 5, rather than the original date, Feb. 24. The motion to continue sentencing that was filed by Sparks’ attorney, W. Kent Varney, reads as follows:
“The defendant’s sentencing is currently set for Feb. 24, 2014. The Undersigned has a trial scheduled in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Kentucky in Pikeville, case style and number U.S. v. Rita Whicker, 13-CR-20. This matter was set for trial in January but was postponed to the date of February 24, 2014. The case is very unlikely to be continued as plea discussions have ceased. The Undersigned waited until the Pikeville case seemed trial certain before filing this motion to avoid any unduly delays.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Ruby stated he would have no objection to the continuance on these grounds, and the continuance order for the new sentencing date, March 5 at 10 a.m., was signed and entered by Judge Johnston.
Sparks and former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury have been accused of attempting to protect the late Sheriff Eugene Crum from revelations that the sheriff had allegedly purchased prescription pills from George White, a business owner who sold political signs and who was arrested and indicted last February on drug charges.
Authorities say that Sparks, Thornsbury and others hatched a plan to cease communications between White and federal agents by offering him a lighter sentence if he agreed to their demands. Crum was shot and killed in an unrelated incident last April 3. White’s original guilty plea was thrown out, he was released from prison and has been recharged with the crime. A hearing is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 24, at 10 a.m. in Mingo County Circuit Court on a motion entered by White’s attorneys to have the charges dismissed.
Sparks and Thornsbury have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of depriving White of his constitutional rights. The former judge is scheduled to be sentenced for his crime on April 21.