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Trial date set for suit against ex-judge

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A judge on Wednesday set a trial date in December for a lawsuit against former Mingo County circuit judge Michael Thornsbury.

In her lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court, Thornsbury's former secretary, alleges that the former judge sexually harassed her, wrongly fired her and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

Thornsbury was indicted in August on a charge of violating the rights of her husband, Robert Woodruff, by trying to put him in jail on trumped-up charges. Prosecutors allege Thornsbury wanted Robert Woodruff out of the picture so that Kim Woodruff would be forced to be with the judge for financial reasons.

Those charges will be dropped, however, if U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston accepts Thornsbury's plea agreement with prosecutors on a separate charge. Kim Woodruff's lawyer has said their lawsuit won't be hurt if those charges against Thornsbury are dropped.

Robert Woodruff has sued many of the same people and agencies as his wife, but in federal court.

On Wednesday, Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman set a Dec. 15 trial date.

Attorneys for Thornsbury asked Kaufman to let their client hold off on answering questions in the civil case until he's sentenced.

William Slicer, who represents Thornsbury in the civil case, and Steve Jory, who represents him in the criminal case, both said the federal judge could consider Thornsbury's responses in the civil case when he's sentenced.

Jory explained that he didn't want his client to do anything to risk a possible sentencing reduction for his cooperation.  And if he used his Fifth Amendment right during a deposition, he didn't know how that would look.

"It's the appearance, your honor," Jory said. "He has been cooperating with federal authorities."

Thornsbury had been scheduled for sentencing this month, however, federal prosecutors sought a delay to give them more time to investigate information Thornsbury provided in a corruption probe.

Kaufman said a deposition could wait until after Thornsbury is sentenced.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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