CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks in connection with the same scheme the county's circuit judge pleaded guilty to last week.
Also Wednesday, the county's chief magistrate, Dallas "Big Dal" Toler, was charged with one count of voter-registration fraud in a separate case.
Toler resigned before his charge was announced. Sparks said he will resign Thursday. His lawyer said Sparks also will surrender his law license.
Prosecutors in U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office filed the charges against the men in the form of an information, which cannot be filed without a defendant's consent and usually means a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors. Goodwin said each man has agreed to plead guilty.
Sparks, who has been Mingo County's prosecutor since 2005, is charged with one count of deprivation of rights under the color of law. He faces a maximum of one year in prison.
"Regrettably, I made a mistake in judgment and now accept the consequences," Sparks said in an emailed statement.
Sparks deprived convicted drug dealer George White of his rights while trying to cover up allegations that Mingo County's former sheriff, Eugene Crum, illegally received prescription painkillers from White, according to the information filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steve Ruby and Haley Bunn.
White owned a sign shop in Delbarton and Crum allegedly owed him about $3,000 for election campaign materials. Instead of paying White, Crum had him arrested for selling drugs, prosecutors say.
White, with the help of lawyer Charles "Butch" West, then began giving information to federal agents about giving prescription pain medication to Crum, according to prosecutors.
When Crum found out, he allegedly approached other officials -- including Sparks and former county commissioner David Baisden -- who devised a scheme to keep White quiet. Federal prosecutors say Sparks and others told White's brother that, if White switched lawyers and stopped talking to federal investigators, he would get a lighter sentence.
Sparks previously denied the allegations, when charges were filed against him by the West Virginia Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel. The counsel sought suspension of Sparks' law license after details of the conspiracy were made public in a federal charge against former circuit judge Michael Thornsbury.
Thornsbury was told about the scheme and agreed with it, the former judge admitted at his plea hearing.
Thornsbury pleaded guilty to a felony -- conspiring to violate White's constitutional rights -- and resigned as judge last week. Sparks' charge is a misdemeanor, said his attorney, Kent Varney of Pikeville, Ky.
According to Wednesday's charge against Sparks, White entered into a plea agreement offered by Sparks that dropped three of five charges and would allow his sentences to run at the same time, according to prosecutors. Also, Sparks reduced White's bail amount from $20,000 to $10,000, the charge states.
"Sparks did these acts knowing that a more favorable plea agreement for [White] was a necessary part of the scheme to coerce [White] info firing [his attorney] in order to protect the sheriff. Because Sparks was the county's prosecuting attorney, his cooperation in this regard was necessary to the scheme's success," prosecutors wrote.
Thornsbury sentenced White to 1 to 15 years in jail after he pleaded guilty to drug charges earlier this year. White was transferred earlier this week from the Southwestern Regional Jail to Huttonsville Correctional Center.
"My attempt to prevent potential injury to the reputation and drug enforcement efforts of the late Sheriff Eugene Crum was unjustifiable. The end should never justify the means in criminal justice," Sparks said in his statement Wednesday.
Baisden pleaded guilty to a separate federal charge last week and resigned as county commissioner. Crum was shot to death in his police cruiser in Williamson in April.
"Obviously, this is two more significant developments in our ongoing investigation in Mingo County," Goodwin said. "Both individuals have agreed to plead guilty and are cooperating with that investigation."