Former Mingo chief magistrate pleads guilty
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dallas Toler repeatedly stroked his face, as if trying to wipe away what was taking place in the courtroom.
Toler, the former chief magistrate in Mingo County, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Charleston to one count of voter-registration fraud.
"In other words, did you do it?" Judge Thomas Johnston asked Toler.
"Yes, sir," he responded.
Toler faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the felony charge when Johnston sentences him March 10.
Toler resigned in October, hours before federal prosecutors filed the charge against him. His resignation was part of his plea deal with prosecutors.
Toler, 45, admitted Monday that he submitted a voter registration application in April 2012 in the name of a convicted felon, who was on probation at the time.
The felon was staying at one of his rental properties, according to court documents. Toler knew the man was on probation because he had seen him at the courthouse when he was about to provide a urine sample for drug testing, which was a condition of his probation, according to Toler's plea agreement.
Toler is the fourth Mingo official to plead guilty in the ongoing corruption investigation by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office.
"Once again, we have a judge engaged in corruption. This time, corruption of the electoral process, so that Mr. Toler and his cohorts could keep their positions of power," Goodwin said outside of the courthouse. "The people of Mingo County are fed up, they're tired of these shenanigans; they're absolutely fed up and we're going to continue to do whatever is necessary to help them."
In October, Michael Thornsbury, the county's former circuit judge, pleaded guilty to the felony charge of conspiring to deprive George White of his constitutional rights. Last month, the county's prosecuting attorney, Michael Sparks, admitted he deprived White of his constitutional rights. Sparks and Thornsbury admitted to trying to cover up allegations that Mingo County's former sheriff, Eugene Crum, illegally received prescription painkillers from White.
David Baisden, a former Mingo commissioner, admitted to an extortion charge. All of the men stepped down from their positions as part of deals made with prosecutors.
Also, as part of Toler's deal with prosecutors, he agreed never to seek or serve in public office again.
On Monday, Toler walked quickly out of the courthouse to an SUV with tinted windows.
"No comment," he said several times to reporters. Joe Farrell, his attorney, also declined comment.
Later Monday, Toler posted a message on his public Facebook page thanking people for their prayers.
"I love this county and love you people in it. This has been pure HELL me and my family has endured lately. And bad as I must say some has gotten pleasure from it. I've tryed [sic] my best to help everyone and make my boys proud to live here," Toler wrote.
In January 2012, Thornsbury appointed Toler to take over the seat vacated by Crum, who left the position of magistrate to run for sheriff. Toler won the subsequent election and took office for what was supposed to be a full term in January.
Crum, who was elected sheriff, was shot to death in April. Federal agents had been investigating Crum in the weeks before his death, according to a search warrant.
Toler told Johnston that before becoming magistrate he had worked as a paramedic and a coal miner.
His wife, Dollie Toler, said outside of the courthouse that her husband's resignation is allowing him to spend more time with his family and has relieved him of a lot of stress.
"Steve Ruby, I have a lot of respect for him," Dollie Toler said about assistant U.S. Attorney Ruby, Goodwin's top aide. Ruby, along with assistant U.S. Attorney Haley Bunn, are handling the corruption cases from Mingo County.
"He's been very respectful. He's darn good at what he does," Dollie Toler said after the hearing.
Toler's charge came in the form of an information, which could not have been filed without his consent and usually means a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors.
Reach Kate White at email@example.com or 304-348-1723.
CORRECTION: A Gazette photographer went outside the boundaries of our standards when he obscured the name of a television station on a microphone in Tuesday's front-page photo. Other than the photographer, no one at the Gazette was aware of what had taken place with the photo. Our photographers know it is unacceptable to alter reality in news photos. The photographer believed his action helped direct the focus of the photo to the subject. He was wrong to do so. This is a singular incident. Disciplinary action is being taken to ensure it does not happen again.