CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Beleaguered Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury faces another federal charge: Prosecutors say he helped interrupt a federal investigation into slain Mingo sheriff Eugene Crum, and helped cover up allegations that Crum illegally received prescription painkillers from a convicted drug dealer.
Thornsbury was charged Thursday with conspiring to deprive the drug dealer of his constitutional rights. Prosecutors in U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office filed the charge in an information, which cannot be filed without a defendant's consent, and usually means a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors.
Thornsbury will plead guilty to the charge outlined in the information, Goodwin said: "He has agreed to cooperate with our investigation and our investigation moves forward." Later Thursday, prosecutors asked a federal judge to schedule a plea hearing for Thornsbury.
Last month, a federal grand jury indicted Thornsbury and charged him with conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of his ex-lover's husband by trying to have him jailed on trumped-up charges.
Crum, who prosecutors describe in Thursday's filing as "a close associate and political ally" of Thornsbury's, was shot to death on April 3, as the sheriff sat in his police cruiser in downtown Williamson.
Thursday's information, filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steve Ruby and Haley Bunn, states that during Crum's campaign for sheriff last year, he bought several thousand dollars worth of signs and other promotional items on credit from a shop in Delbarton.
The shop, White's Sign Company, was owned by George R. White, 65. White, who was identified by his initials in Thursday's filing, is incarcerated in the Southwestern Regional Jail.
After Crum was elected sheriff, instead of paying a $3,000 bill to White, Crum allegedly sent an undercover police officer to the shop, where he bought three oxycodone tablets from White, according to the information.
Crum and then-Williamson police chief Dave Rockel filed the police report on the incident, Thursday's information states. White was indicted on charges of possession of controlled substances with intent to deliver shortly after Crum and Rockel searched his business around Jan. 30.
Rockel, who was also described in Thursday's filing as "a close associate and political ally of Crum's," retired as Williamson chief and joined the Mingo County Sheriff's Department as chief field deputy in June. When Rosie Crum, Eugene Crum's widow, resigned as interim sheriff last month, she recommended Rockel as her late husband's replacement. But new Mingo Sheriff James Smith fired Rockel earlier this week.
After White's arrest, federal investigators approached his lawyer, former Williamson mayor Charles "Butch" West, and asked to talk to White about allegations that he provided drugs to Crum.
"I had represented Mr. White for years," West told the Gazette Thursday. "I said I would ask him and if he wants to talk then we'll sit down and talk and I will be sitting right beside him to make sure he doesn't do something to hurt himself."
White told FBI agents that on "multiple occasions prior to his arrest, he unlawfully provided Crum with prescription narcotic pills at Crum's request," prosecutors said in Thursday's filing.
White told FBI agents that he provided the pills while Crum was a Mingo County magistrate, and also told federal investigators about "election law violations committed by Crum," the information states.
Federal prosecutors say Crum soon learned what White had told FBI agents.
"Sheriff Crum and Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks, also a close associate and political ally of Sheriff Crum's, informed Judge Thornsbury that [White] had provided the FBI with incriminating information regarding Sheriff Crum," the charge states.
In March, federal prosecutors say that Crum, Sparks and Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden "devised a scheme to prevent [White] from further communicating to the FBI and others incriminating information regarding Sheriff Crum."