Mingo circuit court judge’s post remains unfilled

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – The seat vacated by convicted former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury remains unfilled more than a month after a deadline under state law to find a replacement.

A judicial advisory panel in December recommended Mingo County public defenders Teresa McCune and Jonathan Jewell to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin as potential candidates to replace Thornsbury until the May 13 primary election.

Under state law, Tomblin had 30 days after receiving the candidates’ list to appoint a new circuit court judge in Mingo County. According to published reports, Friday marked 73 days since that time.

Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Thornsbury pleaded guilty in October to a federal conspiracy charge and resigned from the bench.

After a federal grand jury indicted Thornsbury in August, Senior Status Judge John L. Cummings of Cabell County and Senior Status Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh were appointed to the Mingo County post on a temporary basis.

Four Democrats have filed to run in the primary for Thornsbury’s seat: Jewell, McCune, Williamson attorney Robert Carlton and Mingo County Family Court Judge Miki Thompson.

The circuit judge customarily appoints magistrates, a post in Mingo County that also remains open while others temporarily fill in. Dallas Toler pleaded guilty in December to a charge that he illegally registered a convicted felon to vote in the 2012 primary election. Toler resigned in October and faces sentencing March 10.

Thornsbury and former Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks were accused of protecting the late Sheriff Eugene Crum from revelations that Crum bought drugs from a campaign sign maker. Authorities said Sparks and Thornsbury kept the sign maker, George White, from talking to the FBI about Crum, who was killed in an unrelated shooting last April.

Last year, Sparks pleaded guilty to depriving White of his constitutional rights and Thornsbury pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive White of his rights. Charges against White were dismissed earlier this week.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the maximum punishment of one year in prison for Sparks, who also resigned and is scheduled to be sentenced next Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Charleston. Sparks also faces a fine of up to $100,000.

Thornsbury will be sentenced in April.

Former Mingo County commissioner David Baisden was sentenced in January to more than a year and a half in prison on an extortion charge. He pleaded guilty in October to trying to buy tires for his personal vehicle at a government discount in 2009, then terminating the county’s contract with Appalachian Tire when it refused to cooperate.