Former judge hires new attorney in his case

By Rachel Dove rdove@civitasmedia.com

July 9, 2014

By Rachel Dove


CHARLESTON - The former circuit judge of Mingo County has named a new attorney to represent him in his attempt to have his 50-month federal prison sentence reconsidered.

Stephen Jory had been Thornsbury’s lawyer since he was indicted early last fall, but the former defense attorney submitted paperwork removing himself from that role following the defendant’s sentencing hearing was held on June 9.

Thornsbury is the alleged leader of the “Team Mingo” political faction that has been at the center of a political corruption plot that has to date taken down three county officials, with one other member indicted and sentenced on a voter-registration fraud charge.

John “Jack” Tinney, a Charleston-based attorney, filed paperwork Monday to officially become Thornsbury’s new attorney. Thornsbury is said to have considered representing himself in appealing his case to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, but apparently changed his mind and hired new counsel.

Tinney has experience as a federal prosecutor. He was an assistant U.S. Attorney in West Virginia’s Southern District from 2000 to 2002 and is now employed as a private defense attorney for The Tinney Law Firm in Charleston. His clients have included the West Virginia State Supreme Court in a lawsuit filed by Massey Energy that challenged the refusal of a Supreme Court justice to recuse himself from a case involving the coal company.

Last October, Thornsbury pleaded guilty to a felony charge related to his role in a scheme to deprive defendant George White of the attorney of his choice. Former prosecutor Michael Sparks was charged with a misdemeanor count in the crime that is said to have also involved former county commissioner Dave Baisden and others. Thornsbury and his cohorts offered White a lesser sentence on drug-related charges in exchange for him agreeing to change lawyers in an attempt to halt an FBI investigation into the alleged drug activity of former Sheriff Eugene Crum. Crum was shot and killed in April 2013. The scheme was allegedly hatched to protect Crum from prosecution.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and his assistant Steve Ruby credited Thornsbury’s eventual cooperation with the investigation while being sentenced and shaved 10 months off his time, but U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston likened Thornsbury’s actions to that of a Third World dictator. Goodwin compared his iron-fist control of the county to the fictional character Boss Hogg from the television show, “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Goodwin’s office dropped charges against Thornsbury for his attempts to frame the husband of his ex-mistress, who also worked as his secretary, in exchange for his guilty plea to the charges involving White, but Johnston referred to the allegations during Thornsbury’s sentencing hearing, in which he received a total of 60 months behind bars minus the 10-month credit for his assistance in the corruption case.

Thornsbury would not have been eligible to file an appeal had the judge not sentenced him outside of federal guidelines. The guidelines for the charges against the disgraced judge recommended 30 to 37 months in prison. Johnston stated that the severity of the crime and the fact that the defendant was the only judge serving Mingo County called for a stiffer punishment. Goodwin said he is confident Thornsbury’s plea and sentence will stand, and will not be overturned.

Thornsbury’s appeal is still in the beginning stages and his attorney is awaiting a request from the appeals court to set deadlines for filing more information.

The former judge remains free on bond while he waits on the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to find a prison that he can report to. During the sentencing hearing, Thornsbury’s former attorney requested he be sent to a federal prison in Florida or Alabama, saying he had family in those areas.