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UPDATE: Mingo Lawmakers: Circuit Needs 2 Full-Time Judges

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

UPDATE: 08/19/2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - At least two Mingo County legislators say it's time to add a second judge to the southern West Virginia circuit that currently only has one.

Judge Michael Thornsbury was indicted last week on two counts of conspiracy. The state Supreme Court promptly appointed two judges to handle his case load.

Delegates Harry Keith White and Justin Marcum say they'll introduce legislation next year to permanently create a second post.

White, who is House Majority Leader, says a second judge has long been needed, and the latest events prove the point. He says citizens deserve access to an effective court system without delay.

Marcum, an assistant prosecutor for the county, says most circuits have two judges. He says having a second in Mingo would improve both efficiency and accountability.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



UPDATE: 08/17/2013
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - Every case the Mingo County grand jury heard in 2009 could be tainted by allegations that suspended Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury appointed a friend as foreman to help him frame a romantic rival.

West Virginia State Bar President Harry Deitzler says the fact that the foreman was also a public officeholder and barred by law from holding the post guarantees that lawyers are considering challenges.

The state Supreme Court will have to decide if any are valid.

Federal prosecutors charged Thornsbury with conspiracy Thursday, hours after indicting a county commissioner on unrelated extortion charges.

Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury says formal legal challenges may come after the charges are resolved. But there's no guarantee lawyers won't petition for an investigation sooner.

The court will handle those issues as they arise.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



UPDATE: 08/16/2013

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. (AP) - Even in southern West Virginia, where corruption is as much as a part of life as coal, people are shocked by allegations that a judge commandeered the legal system in a years-long attempt to frame a romantic rival for crimes he didn't commit.

Federal prosecutors indicted Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury on two counts of conspiracy Thursday, just hours after indicting County Commissioner Dave Baisden on extortion charges. Thornsbury attorney Steve Jory declined comment while Baisden's attorney didn't return messages.

The state Supreme Court has suspended Thornsbury and his law license, and a replacement judge is set to take over his caseload Friday.

Both officials are free while awaiting trial, but the indictments are painful news in a community still reeling from the assassination of its sheriff in April.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATE: 08/15/2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia Supreme Court has suspended Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and his law license.

Thornsbury was indicted Thursday on federal charges he abused his power and the legal system to try to frame a romantic rival for crimes that prosecutors say the man didn't commit.

Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury said Thursday evening that the justices voted to suspend Thornsbury without pay.

Canterbury filed a complaint with the Judicial Investigation Commission upon learning of the charges.

Chief Justice Brent Benjamin appointed Senior Status Judge John L. Cummings of Cabell County to serve in Mingo County.

Senior Status Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh will help as needed to ensure abuse and neglect, domestic violence, juvenile and other emergency issues are handled without delay.

Both start work Friday.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

UPDATE: 08/15/2013

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury has been charged with abusing his power and commandeering a grand jury in a failed attempt to frame a romantic rival for crimes.

Thornsbury is charged with conspiracy against a person's rights in a federal indictment unsealed Thursday.

Prosecutors say Thornsbury was having an affair with his secretary when she tried to end it. He tried to frame her husband to eliminate the competition.

The conspiracy included an attempt to plant drugs on the man and to get a trooper to file a false larceny complaint.

Earlier Thursday, County Commissioner Dave Baisden was arrested and charged in an unrelated indictment with misusing his public office. Prosecutors say he tried to extort a Williamson tire dealer, terminating a contract when it refused to cooperate.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


WILLIAMSON, W.Va. (AP) - Mingo County Commissioner Dave Baisden has been arrested and charged with extortion for misusing his office to try to buy tires from a county supplier at a discount.

Charleston attorney James Cagle says Baisden was arrested Thursday and is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

He says Baisden is set to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge in Charleston at 3 p.m. He hasn't yet spoken to Baisden.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Charleston declined comment but said it would have an announcement about a Mingo County prosecution later in the day.

Calls to the County Commission office went unanswered, and a secretary in the prosecutor's office said no one was available to comment. Prosecutor Michael Sparks is out this week for a family funeral.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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