In the ongoing saga of Mingo County corruption allegations, new federal court filings link the late Sheriff Eugene Crum and the county's prosecutor to two other officials who have been charged with federal crimes.
The information, filed Sept. 19, asserts former Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury helped Crum, Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks and Mingo County Commissioner Dave Baisden, to try to deprive a Mingo County man of his constitutional rights.
A motion was filed Sept. 19 to schedule a plea hearing in what's now being considered the "new" Thornsbury case.
An information typically is filed when a defendant has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors.
The new information explains that a local businessman printed campaign signs for several politicians in the 2012 Mingo County election.
George White, 65, owner of White's Signs, printed signs for then-magistrate Crum, who was running for sheriff. A public listing for White's Signs says the establishment is located in Delbarton.
White attempted to collect a $3,000 debt from Crum, who continually denied White payment, prosecutors said.
Crum won the sheriff's race in 2012. During his first month in office, documents further assert, Crum arranged for White to be arrested. Prosecutors said Crum did this because he frequently obtained free prescription pills from White for his own personal use.
Investigators assert White dealt illegal prescription pills in Mingo County.
White eventually hired a lawyer who was in contact with the FBI with the intention of pursuing Crum. White informed the FBI that before his arrest, he unlawfully provided Crum with prescription narcotic pills on several occasions. White also told the FBI about election law violations Crum committed, according to the information.
Prosecutors said Crum discovered White's relationship with the attorney. It prompted Crum, Baisden, Thornsbury and Sparks to conspire against White through his brother, Glenn.
The group reportedly told Glenn White that if George hired another attorney — one they provided him — they would guarantee White a good plea deal.
That attorney was Ron Rumora, a former prosecuting attorney in Mingo County. Rumora did not return requests for an interview Thursday.
Federal prosecutors assert these officials offered to stop White and his attorney from giving more information to the FBI.
In February 2013, a grand jury in Mingo County indicted White on three counts of delivery of oxycodone.
The information states that Thornsbury, aware of the deal, sentenced White to drug charges. Crum allegedly ordered deputies to obtain a statement from White, claiming he never sold drugs to the sheriff.
Records from the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority indicate that White was arrested as recently as May 28 and remains incarcerated. He had been in jail on drug charges three times in the past year.
White declined a request for an interview Thursday.
A Feb. 3, 2013, article from the Williamson Daily News stated investigators found prescription pills inside two safes belonging to White during the raid Crum had ordered — one in White's home and one inside his business.
"We found morphine tablets, valium, hydrocodone and oxycodone tablets plus several more different types of prescription medication," Crum told the Williamson Daily News. "When the safe at Mr. White's business was opened, it looked like a pharmacy. This is one of the largest drug finds we've made in quite a while."
Dave Rockel, who was the Williamson police chief at the time, told the publication that a "state-of-the-art" surveillance system in the store could reveal who frequented the business.
Rockel was fired from his post earlier this week. James Smith said at the time Rockel was fired, Smith felt Sgt. Joe Smith was a better fit for the job.
Rockel, who said he found out earlier that morning of the new allegations, asserted he didn't arrest White — he was called in as backup.
"I thought, ‘Oh my goodness.' Everyone is in disbelief," he said.
White's arrest was one of the first operations under "Operation Zero Tolerance," a drug task force led by Crum and Dave Rockel.
Current Mingo County Sheriff James Smith said he didn't know how Crum was running the drug task force, how drug buys were done or whether there was a dedicated drug fund. He said the drug fund is now being investigated.
Commissioner Greg 'Hootie' Smith said the task force is largely funded by taxpayer dollars.
Thornsbury will plead guilty to the federal charge mentioned in the original indictment. This indictment asserted Thornsbury tried to scorn his ex-lover's husband in several schemes including planting drugs on the man's truck and hijacking a grand jury to frame the romantic rival.
In an August court hearing, Thornsbury told the federal court he was "absolutely not guilty."
Campaign finance documents obtained from the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office show that the political action committee known as "Mingo County 2012" paid $500 to White's Signs. The expenditure was dated Sept. 15, 2011. Baisden signed the expense sheet.
Similar documents indicate that Thornsbury paid White's Signs more than $19,000 in preparation for the 2008 election. Thornsbury's election filings also show he has a tie to Myra Sue Miller, the 50-year-old resident of Kentucky who was sentenced Sept. 18 for her role in managing a former Mingo County pill mill.
Miller donated $1,000 on April 21, 2008, to Thornsbury's campaign.
The full information filing for Thornsbury can be found here.
The Judicial Investigation Commission filed a statement of charges Sept. 17 against Thornsbury.
West Virginia Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy said usually if there is a statement of charges and another criminal charge is filed, then the commission would file an amended statement of charges.
The commission would go through the same process as the first statement of charges by discussing it, voting on it, signing it and serving upon the judicial officer before it's made public.
The Office of Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel filed a petition Sept. 19 seeking to immediately suspend Sparks' license until disciplinary proceedings are completed.
The petition cited Thornsbury's court filings, which alleged Sparks had previous knowledge of Thornsbury's conduct of trying to violate the rights of his romantic rival. The petition also cited the allegations in the new Thornsbury filing.
The petition said that since Sparks did not report Thornsbury and others listed in the information to the proper authorities, he violated the rules of professional conduct.
Baisden is facing a federal indictment charging him with extortion under color of official right, specifically, attempting to obstruct, delay and affecting commerce and the movement of an article and commodity in commerce. Prosecutors announced Sept. 18 that Baisden would plead guilty to this charge.
Baisden has not yet resigned; however, Mingo County Commissioner Greg "Hootie" Smith said Baisden will step down before sentencing.
The Raleigh County Prosecutor's Office was notified by the Prosecutor's Institute of allegations of campaign irregularities. The Institute needed a special prosecutor to work with the Secretary of State's Office involving Mingo and other counties.
Sparks, meanwhile, filed paperwork Sept. 18 to recuse himself from the trial of Tennis Maynard, who is accused of Crum's murder. The request reads that Sparks "recently became privy to information that would materially limit Sparks' responsibilities in the Maynard case if Sparks complies with Sparks' duty to make timely disclosure to the defense and tribunal of all unprivileged mitigating information in other cases."
After reading the court document, Commissioner Smith said he was "heartbroken," especially upon seeing Crum's name.
"Eugene Crum was a personal friend of mine. … I'm absolutely dumbfounded by the documents," he said. "I never knew Eugene to be a user of pharmaceutical drugs. The sheriff I knew had a strong desire to rid our county of these drugs."
Sheriff James Smith called the recent allegations "another cloud over the county."
"There is a trust issue and it takes time to earn that trust back," he said. "I want to work with the State Police and the FBI to make sure it doesn't happen again."
James Smith also said he always has had "full confidence" in Sparks and he was "stunned" to hear allegations of a conspiracy. Sparks was not in his office Sept. 19.
James Smith said when the department gets the drug task force going again, he will make sure it's done right.
Judge Thomas Johnston scheduled Thornsbury's plea hearing for Oct. 2 at 1:30 p.m.
Judge Copenhaver scheduled Baisden's plea hearing for Oct. 1 at 9:30 a.m.