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UPDATE: Former Judge Sentenced in Political Corruption Case

By: WSAZ News Staff, The Associated Press Email
By: WSAZ News Staff, The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 6/9/14 @ 6:30 p.m.
MINGO COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A major step was taken Monday in the effort to end political corruption in Mingo County.

The first sentencing happened in connection with several corruption cases.

Former Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury will now spend more than four years in prison.

Thornsbury would be spending the next five years in prison, but the judge allowed them to reduce that by 10 months because he has been helpful in convicting other elected leaders in this case.

In addition to the 50 months in prison, Thornsbury also will be placed on supervised release three years following that. He must also pay a $6,000 fine.

Federal prosecutors say while they are thankful for Thornsbury’s cooperation, they also say they have to emphasize the magnitude of this crime, saying they’ve “never seen a case like it.”

Thornsbury told the judge he was remorseful for "allowing the law to be clouded by misguided loyalty and pride."

Thornsbury admits to conspiring with other elected leaders to deprive a man of his constitutional rights.

In order to protect the late Sheriff Eugene Crum, who was accused of buying drugs, business owner George White was wrongly imprisoned.

In exchange for firing his attorney and hiring one favored by Thornsbury, White was promised a lighter sentence, but that promise was broken.

In court, White said this has killed everything he's ever worked for.

“If I had a proper legal proceeding, I wouldn’t have spent all that time in jail.” White said. “It’s no longer safe for me to live in Mingo County.”

White says Thornsbury and other elected officials promised him one month in jail and six months of home confinement for firing his attorney, who they feared was giving information to the FBI.

In the end though, White spent 240 days behind bars and 47 days on home confinement.

“I don't think it'll ever be over for Mr. White or the other victims of Judge Thornsbury in Mingo County,” Kevin Thompson, White’s attorney, said.

At the sentencing the judge compared Thornsbury's actions to a “third world dictatorship.”

The U.S. Attorney's Office is working to make sure this never happens again.

“This kind of boss hog style activity is a thing of the past because we really can't afford it to be a part of our future,” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said.

This is not the end of the road for Thornsbury's legal problems.

In exchange for pleading guilty in this case, charges were dropped in another case that accuses him of framing the husband of his former secretary, with whom he was having an affair. He still faces a civil lawsuit in that case.



UPDATE 6/9/14 @ 3 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A former Mingo County judge has been sentenced to 50 months in prison for federal corruption charges.

Michael Thornsbury was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

Thornsbury pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to deprive George White of his constitutional rights.

The conspiracy charge was related to a scheme to protect the late Sheriff Eugene Crum from illegal drug use accusations.

The sentence was more than the federal sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutors had said Thornsbury should receive a lengthy sentence because he abused his power and damaged the county's judicial system.

Thornsbury's lawyers wanted leniency, saying he has cooperated with an ongoing federal corruption investigation in the county. They say his wife divorced him, he lost his law license and pension, and someone burned down his parents' home.



ORIGINAL STORY 6/3/14
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A former Mingo County Circuit Judge who pleaded guilty in a corruption case is expected to learn his fate on Monday.

Michael Thornsbury is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday, June 9 at 1:30 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Charleston.

Last year, Thornsbury pleaded guilty to a scheme to protect former Sheriff Eugene Crum. Crum is accused of being involved in a drug buy from a local sign maker.

Crum was never charged with a crime. Last year he was shot and killed outside the Mingo County Courthouse.

As part of Thornsbury's plea, he resigned as circuit court judge. His law license was also taken away. Under the agreement, Thornsbury can not ask for it back at least for five years.

Thornsbury faces up to ten years in prison when he is sentenced.

In a sentencing memorandum filed Monday, federal prosecutors recommend a "very substantial term of imprisonment."

However, Thornsbury's attorney says his cooperation with federal prosecutors and his passion for community service should be considered in his sentencing.

"Being cognizant of the crime that he had committed and the need to atone for his conduct, Thornsbury cooperated with the government and provided substantial assistance which led to the conviction of other individuals," Thornsbury attorney wrote.

Thornsbury is asking for a lessen sentence and that he serves his time at either FPC Pensacola or FPC Montgomery. Both are minimum security prisons.

Thornsbury sentencing has been delayed a few times. Prosecutors asked for the delay because they needed more time to investigate information he has provided in a corruption investigation.

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