UPDATE: Former Mingo County Prosecutor Sentenced to Year in Prison

UPDATE 7/7/14 @ 6:50 p.m.
MINGO COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The final player in a case of political corruption in Mingo County was sentenced Monday.

Former Prosecutor Michael Sparks will spend the next year in prison.

Sparks admitted to taking part in a scheme in which campaign sign-maker George White was deprived of his constitutional rights, resulting in unlawful jail time.

It was all to protect late Sheriff Eugene Crum, who was accused of buying drugs from White.

Because of Sparks' cooperation in the case, the U.S. Attorney's Office agreed to charge Sparks with a misdemeanor that would only allow him to spend up to 12 months in prison.

Judge Johnston told Sparks he would sentence him to more time if he could.

"Instead of justice, you gave him (White) injustice. You and your associates wrenched it from him to benefit Eugene Crum," Judge Johnston said. "This crime is a crime against our judicial system itself. Corruption must come to an end in Mingo County and southern West Virginia."

White spoke out in court saying, "Sparks is an alright guy, but he did me wrong."

Sparks apologized to White.

"I accept full responsibility for my actions. I didn't devise the scheme, but I didn't do anything to stop it," Sparks said.

Sparks' co-conspirators, former Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury and former County Commissioner David Baisden, already have been sentenced.

Thornsbury was sentenced to 50 months in prison.

Baisden was sentenced in connection with another political corruption case and given 20 months in prison.



ORIGINAL STORY 7/6/14
MINGO COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A prosecuting attorney who admitted his guilt in a political corruption case will learn his fate in court, Monday.

Former Mingo County prosecutor Michael Sparks is set to be sentenced in Federal Court at 1:30 p.m.

This comes after his sentencing was delayed four times.

According to a court document filed Friday by the U.S. Attorney's office, Sparks is being charged with a misdemeanor deprivation of rights, which means he faces up to one year in prison.

The only alternative charge is a felony charge, which carries a ten-year maximum prison sentence. That's the same charge former Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury faced, who was ultimately sentenced to 50 months in prison.

Thornsbury, Sparks, and former county commissioner David Baisden all admit to playing part in a scheme to deprive a man of his constitutional rights, in order to protect the late sheriff, Eugene Crum, who was accused of buying drugs from the man.

The U.S. Attorney's Office explains in the document that Sparks' role in the scheme was significantly less than his co-conspirators. Also, Sparks was the only one to cooperate with the government early in the investigation; providing a "crack in the wall" in the investigation.

The document states that Sparks was "the only Team Mingo insider to cooperate with the United States' investigation before being presented with evidence of his own guilt. Thornsbury and Baisden cooperated only after they were indicted, by which time investigators already possessed much of the information that those defendants might have offered."

By charging Sparks with a lesser charge, the U.S. Attorney's office hopes to show importance of cooperating with authorities and "encouraging future cooperation by insiders in other corrupt organizations."


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