CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The man whose arrest began a chain of events that brought down Mingo County's circuit judge and prosecuting attorney says he won't be able to get a fair trial in the county.
George White, 65, of Delbarton, who was arraigned a second time on drug charges earlier this year, has asked for a change of venue, according to a motion filed Friday<co Jan. 31> in Mingo Circuit Court.
Last December, Circuit Judge John Cummings vacated White's original guilty plea on those drug charges.
White was arrested after allegedly selling drugs to an undercover officer sent in by 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 Mingo Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks and 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 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.
White asked the judge on Oct. 31 to throw out his initial guilty plea. He has been out of jail since Nov. 15, when the judge released him until ruling on the motion.
"Mr. Thornsbury and Mr. Sparks held significant political influence in Mingo County. There is no way to eliminate potential juror bias with respect to individuals who are sympathetic toward Mr. Thornsbury or Mr. Sparks who may seek retribution against the Defendant for whatever reason," White's motion states.
Also, the motion claims that the family members of Mingo political figures have attended proceedings in White's case "in an attempt to influence those proceedings."
"A hostile sentiment exists against White," wrote his attorneys, Dave Barney and Charles "Butch" West. They also noted that the case has received a lot of publicity.
The motion asks Cummings to survey potential jurors to explore residents' opinion of White.