WILLIAMSON -- George White's new lawyer said Tuesday that he's ready to present evidence and call witnesses to prove that White's drug-dealing conviction should be thrown out.
Meanwhile, White's former lawyer said it's "a joke" that federal prosecutors believe he was favored by former Mingo County officials - several now facing federal charges - to represent White.
White, 65, of Delbarton, is at the center of the federal Mingo County corruption investigation. He was released from prison on Nov. 15 until Circuit Judge John Cummings decides whether to vacate White's guilty plea on drug charges.
Cummings gave Keith Randolph, the Boone County prosecuting attorney appointed as special prosecutor in the case, until Monday to respond to White's petition. David Barney, White's new attorney, said he's ready to present evidence and call witnesses at the next hearing, which Cummings scheduled for Dec. 13.
"What has happened here is an absolute travesty," Barney said outside the courthouse. He has joined Charles "Butch" West, who was White's lawyer after he was first arrested, in representing White, West said.
White's petition says his guilty plea should be vacated because he was deprived of his right to choose his attorney. Former Mingo prosecutor Michael Sparks has pleaded guilty to depriving White of his constitutional rights in just that way, and former Mingo circuit judge Michael Thornsbury has pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive White of his rights.
The petition to reverse White's guilty plea was filed on Oct. 31 by his former attorney, Ronald Rumora, another ex-Mingo prosecutor.
Federal prosecutors say that earlier this year, rather than pay White for campaign signs he made, then-Mingo County sheriff Eugene Crum sent an undercover officer to buy drugs from White, and had him arrested.
White and his first lawyer, West, then began talking to federal agents about giving prescription pills to Crum, according to prosecutors.
When Crum found out, he allegedly approached other officials - including former Mingo prosecutor Michael Sparks and former county commissioner David Baisden -- who devised a scheme to keep White quiet.
Federal prosecutors say Sparks and others got word to White that if he switched lawyers to one favored by them and stopped talking to federal investigators, he would get a lighter sentence.
White then switched lawyers from West to Rumora. He pleaded guilty on April 8 to delivery of oxycodone and possession of oxycodone and morphine with an attempt to deliver.
Thornsbury sentenced him in May to 1 to 15 years on both charges and ordered the sentences to run at the same time. White was also given credit for 120 days already served in jail. Thornsbury had scheduled a hearing to reconsider White's sentence, but resigned as judge before the hearing.
On Tuesday, Rumora said that he didn't find out about the scheme to keep White quiet until federal prosecutors charged Thornsbury. He also said he didn't understand why federal prosecutors described him as an attorney "favored" by Sparks and Thornsbury.