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Court administrator dismissed from Thornsbury lawsuit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury was dismissed as a defendant from a lawsuit filed against former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury.

But Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman denied motions to dismiss West Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Jay Smithers, the Mingo County Commission or former Mingo County grand jury foreman Jarrod Fletcher from the lawsuit filed by Kim Woodruff, Thornsbury's former secretary.

Federal prosecutors have said that Thornsbury conspired with Fletcher, State Police Trooper Brandon Moore and Gilbert police officer Nathan Glanden to arrest Kim Woodruff's husband on trumped-up charges to further the judge's romantic interest in Kim Woodruff.

Thornsbury resigned from the bench in October and pleaded guilty to an unrelated federal charge; he admitted conspiring to deprive a Mingo County man of his rights in an attempt to thwart an investigation into whether the county's sheriff, Eugene Crum, illegally received prescription drugs.

Kim Woodruff sued Thornsbury, Moore, Fletcher and Glanden in Kanawha Circuit Court following the federal plea agreement. She also sued the Mingo County Commission, Canterbury in his official capacity as Thornsbury's boss -- the Supreme Court oversees all circuit judges -- and Smithers in his official capacity as Moore's boss.

Robert Woodruff, Kim Woodruff's husband, has filed a similar lawsuit in federal court.

Kim Woodruff's Kanawha County lawsuit alleges sexual harassment, unlawful firing and emotional distress.

Lawyers for Smithers and Fletcher argued that the statute of limitations ran out more than two years ago on sexual harassment allegations against Thornsbury and that any complaints she had related to what Thornsbury and his alleged co-conspirators may have done to her husband should be taken up in Robert Woodruff's federal lawsuit.

But Richard Neely, Kim Woodruff's lawyer, said she didn't even know about the conspiracy to frame her husband until it came up in the federal court proceedings. Neely argued that that was when the statute of limitations should start.

Attorneys for Smithers and Canterbury argued that neither man had any direct involvement with the conspiracy and should be dismissed from the lawsuit. John Hedges, Canterbury's lawyer, also argued that it went against the state's interest to have a circuit judge committing crimes.

Kaufman dismissed Canterbury from the lawsuit but left the others in for the moment. He said arguments over whether the statute of limitations had run out or whether Kim Woodruff's allegations should be taken up in federal court can wait until later.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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