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Mingo judge, commissioner plead not guilty

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and County Commissioner David Baisden pleaded not guilty to federal charges against them Wednesday, and had their trials scheduled for October.

Thornsbury said he is "absolutely not guilty" during his arraignment in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley.

His trial is set for Oct. 15 in front of U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston. A hearing on pretrial motions was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 26. A witness list must be provided to the court by Oct. 11.

Baisden also told Tinsley he is not guilty. His trial is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 21 in front of U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr.

The West Virginia Supreme Court has suspended Thornsbury, 57, without pay, and also suspended his law license. He was indicted last week on charges of conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of his former secretary's husband, Robert Woodruff.

Federal prosecutors say Thornsbury, Mingo County's only circuit judge, put his business partner in charge of a county grand jury as foreman, plotted to plant drugs on Robert Woodruff and tried to get the man sent to jail after Kim Woodruff, the judge's secretary at the time, broke off an affair with him.

Mike Callaghan, the Woodruffs' attorney, said Wednesday that he plans to file a lawsuit in federal court over the alleged malfeasance by Thornsbury and others.

The federal indictment against Thornsbury names West Virginia State Police Trooper Brandon Moore and Gilbert Police Officer Nathan Glanden as having been persuaded by Thornsbury to help plot against Woodruff. Callaghan on Friday issued a required 30-day notice that the Woodruffs' plan to file a lawsuit against the Supreme Court -- because Thornsbury is a judge -- the State Police and the city of Gilbert.

Thornsbury appeared in federal court Wednesday with his attorney, Stephen Jory, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia. Thornsbury seemed confident and often answered Tinsley's questions before the federal judge finished them.

"I certainly do," Thornsbury said, while promising to tell the truth. "I sure have," he said, when asked by the judge if he had read the indictment.

Thornsbury told the federal judge he had found his passport, which Tinsley had asked him to surrender during his initial court appearance last week.

With Jarrod Fletcher, Thornsbury's business partner, in charge of the Mingo County grand jury, Thornsbury was allegedly able to sway the jury's authority and use it to victimize Robert Woodruff.

Fletcher also was Mingo County's director of homeland security. On Wednesday, Mingo County Commissioners John Mark Hubbard and Greg "Hootie" Smith suspended Fletcher from that job without pay.

The third county commissioner, Baisden, is charged with attempted extortion. He appeared with his attorney, Jim Cagle.

Tinsley scheduled a pretrial hearing in Baisden's case for 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 30. A list of witnesses is due by Oct. 18.

Baisden, 66, allegedly demanded that Appalachian Tire sell him tires for his personal vehicle in 2009 at a discounted price only available for government vehicles. When the company refused, Baisden allegedly revoked the county's contract with the tire store -- costing the company thousands of dollars.

At the time, Baisden was the purchasing agent for the County Commission, which gave him authority to choose where the county purchased tires, the indictment states.

A woman at the County Commission's office in Williamson said Wednesday that Baisden had resigned as the purchasing agent after he was charged last week.

Commissioners appointed Tina Abbott, the county's administrative assistant, to handle purchasing, but said a commissioner must approve any expenditure that exceeds $500.

Thornsbury and Baisden remain free on $10,000 bail each.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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