How deep does Mingo County, WV corruption go?  U.S. Attorney’s have already charged Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden and implicated the late-Sheriff Eugene Crum.  Now, Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks is also implicated.

Federal prosecutors are saying that Judge Thornsbury conspired with Baisden and Sparks to stop a confidential informant from telling the FBI about Crum and his involvement in drugs.  At the time, Crum was the leading drug investigator, in addition to his duties as Sheriff.  Suspended Judge Thornsbury is facing one count of conspiracy to deprive the informant of his Constitutional rights.  Prosecutors say he helped interrupt a federal investigation into slain Mingo sheriff Eugene Crum, and helped cover up allegations that Crum illegally received prescription painkillers.  New information suggests that the judge may plead guilty and cooperate with the probe.  Thornsbury faces charges relating to abusing his power and violating Constitutional rights while trying to frame an innocent man, who was a romantic rival.

Dave Rockel, former Mingo County Chief Deputy and head of the Drug Task Force, has been fired, as well.  The Office of Disciplinary Counsel has asked the Supreme Court of West Virginia to suspend Sparks until the investigation is completed.

“(Sparks), the elected, chief law enforcement officer in the county, has engaged in a continued pattern of egregious misconduct under the color of his position,” the petition states.

The petition alleges that Sparks knew or participated in the wrongdoing, but not just covering up Crum’s drug activity.  Sparks also allegedly knew about the attempt to frame Thornsbury’s secretary’s husband.

According to federal documents, the three officials, conspired to arrange for the informant to get a lighter sentence if he stopped talking to federal investigators and hired an attorney they liked.  The informant’s first attorney, who was helping him cooperate with federal investigators, was a political rival of Sparks’.

“There is sufficient evidence to establish that (Sparks) has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct; that (Sparks) is a substantial threat of irreparable harm; he is unable and/or unwilling to represent and protect the interests of the citizens of Mingo County, West Virginia; and there is good cause shown to immediately suspend his law license . . .” the petition states.

Sparks has denied all wrongdoing and said, “I fully expected Judge Thornsbury to engage in dishonest measures and to make false allegations against me, to exact vengeance against me in retaliation for my cooperation with his federal investigation.  With that being said, I pray that the U.S. Attorney’s office will realize that . . . Thornsbury has every reason in the world to try to bury me.”

Sparks also posted on his Facebook page, “Thornsbury is a sinister, vindictive womanizer that abused the powers of his judgeship in multiple attempts to falsely incriminate a romantic rival.  There is evidence that Thornsbury has engaged in other criminal and unethical activity. I expected to be a target of false information and vengeance since I substantially assisted the federal investigation of Thornsbury.  Although I have not been charged with any crime, I look forward to aggressively defending my integrity…”

Lonnie Simmons is representing Sparks regarding the investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.  Sparks also disqualified himself from the case of Eugene Crum’s murder.  Tennis Melvin Maynard has been accused of killing Sheriff Crum as he was eating lunch in his cruiser.

Crum, who prosecutors describe as a “close associate and political ally” of Thornsbury’s bought several thousands of dollars worth of signs and promotional items from a shop, White’s Sign Company.  The FBI informant, G.W., 65, owns the shop.  After Crum won his re-election, he didn’t pay the bill, instead he sent an undercover officer to the shop to buy three oxycodone pills.  Crum and then-Williamson police chief Dave Rockel filed the police report on the incident.  G.W. was then indicted on charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

Rockel, who was also described as a “close associate and political ally” of Crum’s retired as Williamson chief and joined the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department as chief field deputy.  When Rosie Crum, Eugene Crum’s widow who was appointed after his murder, resigned as interim sheriff last month, she recommended Rockel as her late husband’s replacement.  When G.W. was arrested, federal investigators approached the defendant’s attorney, former Mayor Charles West to ask for G.W.’s cooperation.  The informant told FBI agents that on “multiple occasions prior to his arrest, he unlawfully provided Crum with prescription narcotic pills at Crum’s request.”  He said he provided Crum with the pills when he was Mingo County’s Magistrate and told investigators about “election law violations committed by Crum.”

Crum learned about what the informant was doing.  “Sheriff Crum and Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks, also a close associate and political ally of Sheriff Crum’s, informed Judge Thornsbury that [G.W.] had provided the FBI with incriminating information regarding Sheriff Crum.”  Crum, Sparks, and Baisden allegedly “devised a scheme to prevent [G.W.] from further communicating to the FBI and others incriminating information regarding Sheriff Crum.”  A meeting was arranged with G.W.’s brother.  In the meeting, the brother was told if G.W. fired his attorney and replaced him with an attorney they picked that he would be given a light sentence.  The judge reportedly said when told of the scheme, it would be in G.W.’s “best interest to obtain new counsel.”  The informant did fire his attorney in exchange for a lighter sentence.  Ronald Rumora was the attorney favored by the officials.  He is a former Mingo County prosecutor.  After switching attorneys, Crum was able to obtain a written statement from G.W. that he never provided Crum with any drugs.  G.W. was sentenced to 1 to 15 years.

Conspiring to deprive someone of his or her constitutional rights carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence.  Prosecutors have not charged Sparks or Baisden.  Baisden is currently facing an unrelated extortion charge.  He allegedly tried to get Appalachian Tire to sell him tires for his personal vehicle at a special government rate. When the business refused, Baisden allegedly steered the county’s tire contract elsewhere.  Baisden is expected to plead guilty.


Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s