Donald Stevens, a private investigator who had an office in downtown Williamson, will get $100,000 from a state insurance provider.
Stevens claims Mingo County elected officials trumped up charges against him when they thought he was investigating former circuit judge Michael Thornsbury, who is now serving time in a federal prison in Florida.
In the settlement, the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management will pay the private investigator and his attorneys the money, according to the agreement that was reached.
The trial in Stevens’ lawsuit had been set to begin next month.
Stevens filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court in 2013 against Thornsbury and the state Supreme Court. He also filed the suit against the former county prosecuting attorney Michael Sparks, former Williamson Police Chief Dave Rockel and the city of Williamson.
The lawsuit also named the Mingo County Commission. This was because of the alleged activities of three county employees; Sparks, the late Sheriff Eugene Crum and the late Bill Davis. At that time, Crum was a special investigator for Mingo County. Davis was the county’s 911 Director and Floodplain Coordinator.
“It was never about the money,” Stevens told the Williamson Daily News on Friday. “I wanted to prove my innocence. I wanted the people of Mingo County to know I was innocent.”
“From the very beginning I knew I was innocent,” Stevens added. “Once they charged me and arrested me – and I told them I was innocent – they wouldn’t listen to me. It came down to that I signed an agreement under duress. I set out to prove I was innocent. It finally came out with this lawsuit.”
Stevens hopes the arrest will be wiped from his record and he is going to proceed with that procedure.
The settlement agreement reads, “Defendants John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2, by and through their liability insurance carrier, shall pay to the plaintiffs and their attorney the sum of $100,00 within 20 days of the agreement.”
It also states, “The remaining defendants shall be dismissed by separate order of the Court without monetary contributions to the settlement reached herein.”
Steven’s said that Mingo County officials had him arrested and gave him the choice of going to jail or signing an agreement saying he would move his investigation business out of Mingo County. Allegedly, Thornsbury believed Stevens was investigating him. This investigation allegedly involved Crum and Rockel.
Stevens was accused of illegal wiretapping.
The agreement reached at that time by Stevens and the prosecutor’s office stated that the charges would be dropped if he shut down his private investigators office in Williamson. Stevens said he agreed to the deal because he did not think he could get a fair trial in Mingo County.
Stevens said that during this time he was assaulted by two men in his home and they advised him to get out of Mingo County. The settlement did not require any of the defendants to admit to the allegations.
Besides Thornsbury spending time in jail, Sparks also spent time in a federal prison over accusations involving another man, George White of Varney, W.Va.
Thornsbury pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive White of his constitutional rights, a felony, while Sparks pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of actually violating White’s rights. Sparks spent a year in jail while Thornsbury is still serving a 50-month prison sentence.
Crum was shot to death in April 2013 in a parking lot beside the Harvey Street underpass in downtown Williamson. Rockel had resigned his position as Police Chief for the Williamson Police Department and joined the Sheriff’s Department under Crum. After Crum’s death, Rockel’s position was terminated by current Sheriff James Smith.
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)