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Mingo commissioner to plead guilty to federal extortion charge

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Prosecutors are requesting a plea hearing for Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden, who was indicted last month on federal extortion charges.

Baisden, 66, is accused of demanding that Appalachian Tire sell him tires for his personal vehicle in 2009 at a discounted price that is available only for government vehicles.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby filed a motion Wednesday morning asking U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver to schedule a guilty-plea hearing in the case. Baisden's trial had been scheduled for Oct. 21. He remains free on $10,000 bail.

His attorney, Jim Cagle, did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Baisden has cost Appalachian Tire "tens of thousands of dollars since 2009," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin previously said.

When Appalachian Tire refused Baisden's demand for discount tires, he threatened to cut off the store's agreement with the county, according to the federal indictment. 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.

After he was charged, Baisden stepped down as purchasing agent. The county's two other commissioners appointed Tina Abbott, the county's administrative assistant, to handle purchasing, and said a commissioner must approve any expenditure that exceeds $500.

Prosecutors say in the indictment that Baisden directed Jerry Colegrove, who worked for the commission, to order a set of tires for Baisden's personal vehicle at the government price.

When Appalachian refused, the indictment states, Colegrove told Appalachian employees that Baisden, "was a powerful official and that Appalachian would risk losing its business with the Commission if it did not sell [him] tires for personal use at the Government Price," the indictment states.

Appalachian Tire still refused.

Around June 12, 2009, the indictment states, Baisden left a voicemail message for the store's manager threatening that commissioners would stop purchasing tires from the company if it didn't sell him the tires at the discounted price.

The company didn't respond to the alleged threat, according to the indictment.

In turn, the commissioner terminated Appalachian Tire's business relationship with the commission and switched to a different tire supplier, according to the indictment.

Goodyear has a contract with the state. Appalachian Tire is a local distributor of Goodyear.

Discounts for tires for government vehicles can range from 45 percent to 52 percent, based on the tire's size and other factors, according to Jeri Whitehead, director of purchasing for the Kanawha County Commission.

Before he was elected commissioner in 2009, Baisden was the assessor in Mingo County.

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


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