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Thornsbury wants lawsuit against him dismissed

File photo
Michael Thornsbury (right) was indicted in August on a charge of violating Robert Woodruff's constitutional rights by trying to put Woodruff in jail on trumped-up charges.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former Mingo County judge Michael Thornsbury says a lawsuit against him should be thrown out because a process server delivered the lawsuit to a house where Thornsbury no longer lives, and gave the lawsuit to Thornsbury's wife, who is divorcing him.

Robert Woodruff, the husband of Thornsbury's former secretary, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court last month against Thornsbury and others, alleging malicious prosecution, false arrest and wrongful imprisonment.

Thornsbury was indicted in August on a charge of violating Woodruff's constitutional rights by trying to put him in jail on trumped-up charges. Prosecutors claim Thornsbury wanted Robert Woodruff out of the picture so that Thornsbury's former secretary, Kim Woodruff, would be forced to be with the judge for financial reasons.

To put Robert Woodruff in jail, prosecutors allege, Thornsbury put his business partner, Jarrod Fletcher, in charge of a Mingo County grand jury, tried to persuade a close friend, Jeff Cline, to plant drugs in Woodruff's truck and had West Virginia State Police Trooper Brandon Moore and Gilbert Police Officer Nathan Glanden wrongfully arrest Woodruff.

That charge could be dismissed if a federal judge accepts Thornsbury's guilty plea to another charge on Jan. 13.

Thornsbury, who had served as Mingo County's only circuit court judge since 1997, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to deprive drug dealer George White of his constitutional rights as part of a scheme to thwart a federal investigation into the county's sheriff.

Thornsbury's response to Robert Woodruff's lawsuit, filed Friday, asks U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver to dismiss the case.

The ex-judge says that on Oct. 5, process server Benjamin Cisco tried to serve Thornsbury with the lawsuit at his former residence in Williamson. Thornsbury was not there, so the summons and complaint were left with his wife, Dreama Thornsbury.

The filing by Thornsbury's attorney, Philip Sword, states that Cisco left the complaint in Dreama Thornsbury's mailbox, after he tried to hand her the paperwork and tell her "you have been served," and she closed the door on him.

Dreama Thornsbury filed for divorce on Sept. 12, according to an employee in the Mingo Circuit Clerk's Office.

"Michael Thornsbury moved out of that address on October 3, 2013, two days prior to the time service was made," the filing states. "Therefore, Mr. Thornsbury has yet to be served . . . he has not visited or slept at the residence, nor has he kept any of his personal belongings at the location since on or before October 3, 2013."

Kim Woodruff also is suing Thornsbury, but she filed her lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court. She claims the former judge sexually harassed her, wrongly fired her and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Thornsbury has not responded to that lawsuit.

In both lawsuits, Thornsbury is being sued individually and in his official capacity -- essentially another way of suing the state. Moore and Glanden also are being sued both ways, as is Fletcher, who was Mingo County's director of homeland security, as well as Thornsbury's business partner.

Both lawsuits also name Col. Jay Smithers, commander of the State Police, and Steve Canterbury, administrator of the West Virginia Supreme Court, as defendants in their official capacities, but not as individuals.

The city of Gilbert and members of the Mingo County Commission are being sued in their official capacity. Jeff Cline is being sued individually.

Responses from Fletcher and the commission are due by Monday. Canterbury's is due Wednesday and Cline's is due by Nov. 4.

Smithers has said claims against him should be dismissed because the Woodruffs haven't stated any viable claims for relief against him.

Moore claims he is immune from being sued because he is a State Police trooper. He also argues that the statute of limitations to file a claim against him has expired, because the accusations involve events that occurred in 2008 and 2009. He is on paid administrative leave.

Also Friday, the Supreme Court accepted Thornsbury's voluntary annulment of his law license. As part of his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Thornsbury agreed to resign as judge, consent to disbarment and not reapply for his law license for at least five years.

He also is barred from ever again holding public office.

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


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