WILLIAMSON, W.Va. -- A judge on Friday threw out the guilty plea of the man whose arrest began a chain of events that brought down Mingo County's circuit judge and prosecuting attorney.
Circuit Judge John Cummings vacated the plea by George White at a hearing Friday morning in Mingo Circuit Court.
"There's no alternative but to set aside the conviction previously imposed," Cummings said.
The judge did not dismiss the charges against White, and said a date would be set to arraign White, 65, of Delbarton, again on the charges.
White asked the judge on Oct. 31 to throw out the guilty plea. He has been out of jail since Nov. 15, when the judge released him until ruling on the motion.
Earlier this week, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph, the special prosecutor in White's case, said he wouldn't oppose White's motion to have the plea vacated.
Cummings lauded Randolph at Friday's hearing.
"I'd like to thank you," the judge told him. "Many prosecutors wouldn't have the candor or guts to do what you've done."
White was arrested after allegedly selling drugs to an undercover officer sent in by then-Mingo Sheriff Eugene Crum. According to federal prosecutors, White then began talking to investigators about providing prescription drugs to Crum.
When Crum found out, prosecutors say, he and other county officials -- including then-Mingo prosecutor Michael Sparks and then-county commissioner David Baisden -- hatched a plan to keep White quiet. They said he would get a light sentence if he switched lawyers and stopped talking to investigators.
White did switch lawyers and pleaded guilty to drug charges in front of the county's then-circuit judge, Michael Thornsbury -- who signed off on the scheme to thwart the investigation into Crum, according to federal prosecutors.
Sparks has pleaded guilty in federal court to violating White's constitutional rights -- by not allowing him to choose his own lawyer -- and Thornsbury has pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate White's rights. Sparks and Thornsbury resigned as part of their plea deals with federal prosecutors.
Outside the Mingo County courthouse Friday, White -- who is free on $25,000 bail -- said, "It's not over yet. Since everybody blasts me so much, I'm not the person everybody thinks I am."
He then got into a car with his brother and drove away.
Randolph said after the hearing that he would look at the evidence that led to White's indictment.
"The first thing I think I need to do . . . is to look into the nature and circumstances of the indictment and the presentation of them to the grand jury, and we'll make a determination whether to proceed on that or start anew," Randolph said.