Not all politicians going to jail in Southern W.Va.

June 17, 2014

By Ron Gregory


Everybody is going to jail.

At least, that’s the way some media outlets and citizens see it when it comes to Southern West Virginia politics.

An odd fact to me is that West Virginians appear to take pleasure in electing “crooks.” A politician gets the majority of votes in an election and, within mere weeks or months, “everybody” seems to know how crooked he or she is.

Let’s get something straight here: not all politicians are crooked. In fact, the vast majority are not. Most elected officials are true public servants who are straight and honest.

As a political columnist, I regularly hear from readers who think I am “in the pocket” of some politician the reader dislikes because I have not accused that politician of being a liar, thief or worse.

While those who love to hate me will say I write about every rumor or piece of gossip I hear, that simply is not true. It seems unprofessional to me for media outlets to let sensational rumors get in the way of truth.

MetroNews, by way of WVOW Radio in Logan, has reported that “the ongoing federal investigation in the southern coalfields now appears to be focused on the political front.” Oh really? Try telling three elected former Lincoln County officials and four in Mingo that it wasn’t already focused on political corruption as they headed to jail. Attend a press conference and ask U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin if his investigation is going to include political corruption.

The radio station said it has learned from “multiple sources” that federal “target” letters have been received by as many as four individuals in Logan County. It identifies three of those receiving letters as elected officials and one as a county employee. The U.S. Attorney’s office, when contacted, wouldn’t talk about any such letters, as is their policy, WVOW reported.

So let us consider this: who, besides the government, could know about target letters? Those who received them, of course. And one doubts that receiving such a letter would be cause for telling the neighborhood. So, in my humble opinion, there are no “sources” that can confirm their existence.

Again, from Lincoln to Boone to Logan to Mingo, everybody talks about target letters and pending (or already sealed) indictments. But the only people who could really know about them are not about to talk.

So, do I think more indictments are coming? Perhaps. Is it a sure thing? Absolutely not. Are most elected officials crooks? Positively not.

But WVOW can say, “That’s who we were talking about weeks (months) ago” if anyone is ever indicted. Let’s just ask the radio station, if they are so sure of their sources, to name the four people who got the letters.

… The divided camps in Mingo County were just as one-sided in U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston’s courtroom last week for the sentencing of disgraced former judge Michael Thornsbury. Those who hate Thornsbury wouldn’t have been happy if the federal judge had ordered Thornsbury shot by U.S. marshals in attendance. Thornsbury supporters felt he should have been praised by the judge, patted on the butt and given probation.

It actually seems to me that Johnston’s scathing remarks to Thornsbury and the planned prison sentence are equal to the crime. But is it enough to deter political corruption in Southern West Virginia, as Goodwin requested? I doubt it seriously.

Among those writing letters in support of Thornsbury were a number of prominent attorneys. The sentencing attracted other high-profile attorneys, including Charleston’s Chuck Bailey, who chatted with Goodwin before the hearing began.

Williamson Mayor Steven Knopp appeared to be supporting Thornsbury at the sentencing last week. Knopp came onto Johnston’s floor with the disgraced judge and his legal team.

A light did flash in most people’s minds when Thornsbury’s attorney told Johnston that Thornsbury had offered the U.S. Attorney assistance “as recently as the past weekend.” Check with WVOW to see what that was all about.

George White clearly appeared as a figure deserving compassion during the hearing. His humble presentation endeared him to the unbiased in attendance. Eyebrows raised when he told of former Sheriff Rosie Crum “cussing me out.” White said everyone knows there have always been “three kinds of law: federal law, state law and Mingo County law.”

… Efforts by West Virginia Republican congressional candidates to link Democrats with President Barack Obama will fail, in my opinion. Anyone stupid enough to believe Third District Congressman Nick Rahall is anti-coal would be willing to buy the Brooklyn Bridge. Likewise, Second District Democrat Nick Casey is not “married” to Obama nor is he anti-West Virginia. Republicans plan to keep hammering those nails and I suspect it will be shutting their own coffins.

Your comments, rumors, story ideas and copies of any target letters you receive are always welcome. Use my email address or call me at 304-533-5185.