Former Mingo County public officials, prosecutor Michael Sparks and Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury, are rapidly approaching their sentencing dates. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says the upcoming election (which will elect replacements for oth Sparks and Thornsbury for their remaining term) is an opportunity for for a new beginning.
“Far too often, I think, the natural tendency is to throw up your hands and just say it’s never going to change,” Goodwin said.
Sparks is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in federal court. He faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Federal prosecutors are seeking the maximum penalty.
Thornsbury’s sentencing is scheduled for June 9. The punishment he faces is lofty compared to Sparks’ with up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“I don’t ever relish people going to prison,” Goodwin said. “It’s a necessary punishment for what they’ve done.”
Thornsbury’s participation was said to be pivotal in a scheme to protect the late Sheriff Eugene Crum from accusations of illegal drug use. These are scandalous accusations considering that he was elected in 2012 on a campaign to clean up a pervasive drug problem. Crum was killed in an unrelated shooting in April 2013.
According to court documents, while campaigning Crum bought signs and other materials from a man named George White and still owed White $3,000 when he took office in January 2013. Crum was accused by Federal prosecutors for having White arrested in early 2013 instead of paying the money he owed. White then accused Crum of taking pills for payment.
Crum allegedly sought the help of Thornsbury, Sparks and former county Commissioner David Baisden to avoid trouble with federal agents.
The four of them supposedly told White if he switched lawyers and pleaded guilty to drug charges, Thornsbury would give him a lighter sentence.
Charges against White were dismissed in February.
White’s attorney, David Barney, said the case “rocks the foundation of what our government’s about.”