Mingo County Judge Pleads Guilty to Criminal Conspiracy Charges, Resigns From the Bench

gavel-2-1409592-m.jpgBack in August, this blog discussed the strange case of Judge Michael Thornsbury of Mingo County. Judge Thornsbury was charged with two counts of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of a citizen after he tried to frame the husband of his secretary, with whom he was having an affair. This month, Judge Thornsbury pleaded guilty and resigned from the bench. The maximum penalty for his crime is 10 years in prison.

In 2008, Judge Thornsbury’s secretary broke off their affair, claiming that she wanted to stay with her husband. Judge Thornsbury then attempted to harm her husband in several different ways. He urged a friend to place a magnetic metal box of drugs under the husband’s car in order to get the husband convicted of possession — a move that was fortunately unsuccessful. He later befriended a state trooper with the intention of influencing the trooper’s actions. This included persuading the state trooper to file a false complaint against the husband for larceny (for an action that was condoned by the husband’s employer). Judge Thornsbury also tried to persuade the Mingo County emergency services director to become a grand jury foreman, with the purpose of indicting the husband to get private information that could then be used against him. Finally, in 2012, Judge Thornsbury tried to make it appear that in a situation where the husband was assaulted, the husband was the instigator. He sought a six-month sentence, which would have been extreme for that type of offense. The case was eventually dismissed.

In 2009, the state trooper was placed on administrative leave during an internal investigation. The judge’s intentions eventually met the suspicions of several government employees, who were aware of the affair and knew that the charges against the husband were baseless. Finally, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin filed charges against Judge Thornsbury in August, and the judge entered his guilty plea in September. Before Judge Thornsbury did so, his pay and law license were suspended, making his resignation from the bench practically inevitable.

Because judges have such an important responsibility, they are required to follow the West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct (or the federal rules of conduct if they are federal judges). Canon 1 states that a judge “shall uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.” Needless to say, Judge Thornsbury did not abide by this rule. Nonetheless, every criminal suspect in this state is entitled to representation by a competent West Virginia criminal defense attorney, even members of the judiciary. Under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, criminal suspects must have representation, and if they cannot afford representation, they can have a public defender appointed. Therefore, if you have been charged with a crime, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia attorney, contact us today.

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