CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Office of Disciplinary Counsel is investigating Mingo County prosecutor Michael Sparks, its chief attorney confirmed Wednesday.
Rachael Cipoletti wouldn't say why he's being investigated, but Sparks said Thursday it's because of what Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury's federal indictment claims.
Thornsbury was arrested earlier this month after federal authorities charged him with conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of his former secretary's husband, Robert Woodruff.
According to the indictment, Sparks knew at least some of what Thornsbury was allegedly plotting.
Attorneys are required to report judicial misconduct, according to the State Bar's rules of professional conduct for lawyers. But Sparks said he hopes the disciplinary counsel will sympathize with his situation and consider that he has cooperated with federal prosecutors.
Sparks said he had enough information to know that what Thornsbury was allegedly doing was wrong, but wasn't sure if the evidence he had was enough to report Thornsbury. If the charges didn't stick, he would still have to appear before the judge, Sparks said.
"I believed he was having an affair. I believed that despite the lack of evidence. He was a very vindictive person - and I had been the recipient of his vindictiveness before," the Mingo prosecutor said.
"Perhaps it was an error that I didn't report it, but I didn't think I could prove it. I would hope that they will take into consideration the unique circumstances of my situation and any other member of the Mingo County Bar. I'm not the only member of the Mingo County Bar that was aware of his misconduct."
Thornsbury allegedly had a brief affair with his secretary, and tried to retaliate against her husband after she ended the relationship. Federal prosecutors say the judge put his business partner in charge of a county grand jury as foreman in 2009, plotted to plant drugs on Woodruff and tried to get the man sent to jail.
The judge, who was suspended by the Supreme Court without pay after his arrest, pleaded not guilty to the charges last week. An October trial date is scheduled.
Sparks said he started talking to federal investigators earlier this year to tell them what he knew. "By then it was no secret that there was an investigation," he said.
According to federal prosecutors, Thornsbury got State Police Trooper Brandon Moore to file a criminal complaint against Robert Woodruff, accusing him of stealing scrap metal from his employer -- even though the judge and the trooper knew Woodruff was allowed to take the scraps. (Moore has been placed on paid administrative leave by the State Police until an internal investigation is complete.)
The indictment states that when Robert Woodruff was arrested, "Prosecutor Sparks knew and had reason to know that Judge Thornsbury had been in a romantic relationship with [Kim Woodruff] and knew that Judge Thornsbury exerted great influence over Tpr. Moore in the performance of Tpr. Moore's official duties."
According to the indictment, Sparks recused himself from the case against Robert Woodruff because he "recognized that the criminal charges against [Woodruff] were improper ..."