Former judge feels need to be wanted
They say that everyone feels a need to be wanted, although that may not apply so much in the case of disgraced Mingo Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury.
It now seems that His Honor is on good terms with federal officials, who want to spend more time with him over the next four months.
That determination came about after federal authorities made a motion in court last week to delay his sentencing for 90 days. Originally scheduled for Jan. 13, the feds now want to have the judge around for good conversation until mid-April. Maybe he’ll even help them meet the April 15 deadline for filing taxes.
In doing so, federal prosecutors told the court they want more time to investigate information he has been giving them about political corruption and the Team Mingo political faction.
The Williamson Daily News even referred to Thornsbury’s testimony as having come against his “fellow members of ‘Team Mingo.’” Hmmn. I thought I was the only one who even knew there was a Team Mingo. It has certainly sounded that way from the rants on social media and elsewhere. But facts are facts and the Daily News prints facts. For the discerning reader, this is yet another lesson that an opinion column such as mine can publish rumors and innuendo. Not true in a news story such as the one in the Daily News, where everything must be checked for accuracy.
For those just coming out of fall hibernation, Thornsbury pleaded guilty in October to depriving an alleged drug dealer, George White, of his constitutioanl rights. That was after he originally pleaded guilty to what appeared to be more serious charges involving the husband of his former mistress.
The feds agreed to drop the former charges when he said he would plead guilty to the later one.
“Thornsbury is cooperating with the United States and has provided information about activities that we are now actively investigating,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby said in his motion. The motion suggests that if the information the former judge provides is valuable enough, he might be eligible for a lighter sentence.
The ex-judge, who is 57, remains free on $10,000 bond. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine under the current charges. He became judge in 1997, but resigned this year as part of his plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
According to the federal charge against Thornsbury, the late Mingo Sheriff Eugene Crum bought signs from George White’s sign shop in Delbarton, then set White up to be charged with illegal drug distribution. White originally also pleaded guilty to the charges against him, but has since been permitted to withdraw that plea.
… Withdrawing a plea is an interesting situation in light of West Virginia’s checkered political past. Former Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr. pleaded guilty in federal court to charges against him on the advice of his attorney. The attorney, William Hundley of Washington, D.C., allegedly told the governor he could plead guilty in order to see the evidence against him. Then, the lawyer said, Moore could withdraw the guilty plea and plead not guilty.
But the judge presiding in that case would never allow Moore to change the plea, despite repeated appeals. I suppose the difference is federal prosecutors refused to agree to Moore’s request while they have joined in White’s actions.
Actually, according to Daily News reporter Rachel Baldwin, Mingo Senior Status Circuit Judge John Cummings threw out White’s conviction recently but did not dismiss the charges. That means White still faces the music, one way or the other.
Commendations, by the way, should go to Baldwin and others at the Williamson paper who have kept their readers abreast of all the happenings in this fiasco. While some “hometown” papers might have tried to whitewash the facts, Baldwin and the staff at the Daily News have boldly gone where many would not. While it may sound like cheerleading for the paper my column appears in, I am sincere in saying the Daily News deserves praise for relentless reporting. Baldwin, in particular, has done a spectacular job.
… What all the movement with Thornsbury means is open to speculation, of course. However, it appears certain the feds think Thornsbury can still deliver the so-called “big fish” that I wrote about weeks ago.
Just who that “big fish” may be is not certain, but one can assume it is not likely a county official. I continue to believe that it has to at least be a state legislator or even a statewide official.
The net has been cast and the prosecutors surely believe Thornsbury can help deliver the fish they are after.
… A former Boone Countian has thrown his hat in the ring for state Senate.
Several high-profile Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, gathered at the Capitol last week to watch Ed Gaunch kick off his campaign to unseat state Sen. Erik Wells of Kanawha County.
Gaunch is the former president and CEO of Carson Insurance Agency in Charleston, but was originally from Boone County, he told me.
Gaunch’s literature says he was raised in the coal camp of Ridgeview, Boone County, and graduated from West Virginia State College (now university) in 1970. He has been married for 46 years to his wife, Marilyn, and they have two children and five grandchildren.
Gaunch comes across as a sincere individual who may not be all the way to the right with the tea party. I suspect his lack of a political background will cause a need for him to spend a considerable amount of money to even undertake a race against Wells. Considering who he was surrounded by at the Capitol, I am certain a large expenditure of funds is contemplated.
Wells, on the other hand, has taken ultra-liberal positions in the Senate that will not sit well with at least the Putnam County portion of his district. Even though he has the northern part of Putnam, those voters tend to cast their ballots for more conservative candidates.
Wells would have been better off with his chunk of Kanawha being added to Lincoln and Boone counties, as some suggested. There, voters have more of a tendency to vote the Democrat line than in Putnam, regardless of the candidates’ positions.
… In the Thornsbury case, as I noted earlier but did not elaborate on, prosecutors say they want more time for the former judge to meet with them. Apparently, the feds are enjoying His Honor’s company so much they don’t want him in stripes.
… Although I have addressed this subject in my sports column in the Coal Valley News and in straight news stories, the melee in Chapmanville that led to the eventual arrest of Logan High School Coach Mark Hatcher has been amazing to watch.
After The Logan Banner ran a photo of Hatcher being led from the court by two “policemen,” we learned that one of those cops was, in fact, a 17-year-old Chapmanville Regional High School student.
What appears obvious is that the Logan County Sheriff’s Department and Chapmanville Volunteer Fire Department encouraged the young man to participate in their activities. Both insist they never allowed him to do anything improper, but testimony from others says he acted as a policeman and fireman when he could not, because of his age.
Regardless, as I have said in the sports section, it is not the fault of the young man if that happened. All the problem lies with those in authority who let him do what he did.
Meanwhile, I have also predicted that Hatcher will never be convicted of anything in any Logan County courtroom. Just wait and see.
… Hopefully, the new year will bring a newly-inspired devotion to public service in Mingo, Logan and Boone counties. Frankly, at least in the case of Mingo, it couldn’t get much worse.
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To all “sun” worshippers, this is my wish for a happy Dec. 25. Keep your comments, rumors and story ideas coming. Use my email listed or call my cell, 304-533-5185.
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