Thornsbury was told about the scheme and agreed with it, the former judge admitted at his plea hearing.
According to the charge against Sparks, White entered into a plea agreement offered by Sparks that dropped three of five charges and would allow his sentences to run at the same time, according to prosecutors. Also, Sparks reduced White's bail amount from $20,000 to $10,000, the charge states.
"Sparks did these acts knowing that a more favorable plea agreement for [White] was a necessary part of the scheme to coerce [White] into firing [his attorney] in order to protect the sheriff. Because Sparks was the county's prosecuting attorney, his cooperation in this regard was necessary to the scheme's success," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steve Ruby and Haley Bunn.
He resigned as prosecutor last month after federal prosecutors charged him in the form of an information, which cannot be filed without a defendant's consent and usually signals a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors. His resignation was included in the deal with prosecutors.
Sparks previously denied the allegations, when charges were filed against him by the West Virginia Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel. Also as part of his plea deal, he agreed to give up his law license for at least five years and to never seek or serve in public office again.
Thornsbury pleaded guilty last month to a felony -- conspiring to violate White's constitutional rights -- and resigned as judge. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in January. Baisden, the former county commissioner, has pleaded guilty to an unrelated federal charge.
Sparks was allowed to leave on $10,000 unsecured bail and Johnston said he would allow Sparks to travel to eastern Kentucky, across the state line from Mingo County, for possible employment.
Moments before he entered the courtroom Monday, a process server handed Sparks a copy of a lawsuit filed last month in Kanawha Circuit Court by former private investigator Don Stevens, who says Mingo officials cooked up charges against him. Besides Sparks, Stevens is suing Thornsbury, former Williamson police chief Dave Rockel and others.
Stevens, who attended Sparks' plea hearing, claims in his lawsuit that he has a letter from federal prosecutors saying he had been the victim of a crime by Sparks.
Prosecutors wouldn't comment after Monday's hearing about Stevens. During the hearing, however, Ruby told the judge that Sparks' "conviction and final disposition will conclude any prosecution for conduct known to the United States at this time."
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.