In a case you don’t hear about every day, a West Virginia circuit court judge has been indicted on federal charges after attempting to frame the husband of the woman with whom he was having an affair. Judge Michael Thornsbury of Mingo County Circuit Court has been charged with two counts of conspiracy for trying to frame his secretary’s husband for crimes that included assault, larceny, and drug possession. If convicted, Judge Thornsbury faces up to 20 years in prison.
The sequence of events began in 2008, when Judge Thornsbury’s secretary broke off their affair. Judge Thornsbury then allegedly “set off on a campaign” to harm the husband, his rival. First, he supposedly told a business partner, Mingo County’s director of emergency services, that the husband was dealing drugs. He then purportedly urged a friend to place a magnetic metal box of drugs underneath the husband’s car.
After that plan failed to work, Judge Thornsbury allegedly befriended a state trooper solely to influence the way he carried out his duties. He reportedly convinced the state trooper to file a false complaint against the husband for larceny after the husband salvaged mine-roof drill bits and scrap from his employer, H. Coal Company. The husband was doing so with the employer’s permission.
In 2009, the state trooper was placed on administrative leave during an internal investigation, and the county prosecutor eventually intervened. The county prosecutor was allegedly aware of Judge Thornsbury’s affair and knew that the husband had been wrongfully charged. A local magistrate later dismissed the larceny case.
Even so, Judge Thornsbury allegedly convinced the Mingo County emergency services director to become a grand jury foreman in order indict the husband and get private information on him through subpoena that could later be used to pursue criminal charges against him. The scheme allegedly fell apart after one company that received a subpoena refused to cooperate, knowing about Judge Thornsbury’s personal vendetta.
Finally, in 2012, after the husband was assaulted by two men, Judge Thornsbury allegedly tried to make it appear that the husband had been the instigator, so he would be charged with assault and battery. Judge Thornsbury allegedly told the county prosecutor to seek a six-month sentence, which would have been extreme for such a case. Days before the trial, the county prosecutor dropped the case.
Judge Thornsbury’s conspiracy charges include conspiracy against a person’s rights to unreasonable arrest, conspiracy against a company’s right not to be deprived of property without due process, and violating a person’s right to liberty without due process. Judge Thornsbury’s indictment is just the most recent problem to befall Mingo County, which has been troubled by violence and government corruption in the past.
The West Virginia Supreme Court has suspended Judge Thornsbury’s pay and his law license. Therefore, Judge Thornsbury will need to hire his own West Virginia criminal defense attorney to defend him against the charges. Under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, every criminal suspect has the right to representation by counsel — even judges.