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Tips fly during Mingo corruption inquiry

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two weeks after the arrests of a Mingo County judge and commissioner, federal prosecutors have received dozens of calls offering more information into alleged misconduct.

Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and County Commissioner David Baisden were indicted and arrested earlier this month on separate federal charges. They pleaded not guilty last week.

Thornsbury, 57, is charged with conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of his former secretary's husband. Prosecutors say he 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.

Baisden, 66, is charged with attempted extortion. Prosecutors say he 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.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Tuesday his office is continuing to look into Mingo County, including the most recent allegations.

"Since the arrests in Mingo County earlier this month, we have received dozens of calls from citizens offering information for our ongoing investigation there," Goodwin told the Gazette. "We are pursuing those leads aggressively and I hope the public will continue to call my office with information."

The West Virginia Supreme Court has suspended Thornsbury, 57, from the bench without pay, and also suspended his law license. On Tuesday, the Lawyer Disciplinary Board filed notice of the suspension in federal court.

Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury said Wednesday he has also received numerous calls about alleged misconduct.

"I've received at least 20 calls," he said. "I'm not an investigator, all I can do is tell them to call the U.S. attorney's office or the Judicial Investigation Commission. I try to hear them out and give them direction where they can take some action."

Last week, commissioners approved Baisden's resignation as purchasing agent for the commission.

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

The 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.

Last week, Callaghan issued required 30-day notices to the state Supreme Court -- because the court oversees Thornsbury -- the State Police and the city of Gilbert, telling them that the Woodruffs plan to file lawsuits against them.

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


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