A West Virginia judge already facing corruption allegations was charged Thursday with conspiring with a local prosecutor, county commissioner and a now-deceased sheriff to stop a confidential informant from telling the FBI about his drug deals with the sheriff.
Suspended Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury was charged Thursday with one count of conspiracy in a federal document called an information, signaling that he is cooperating with federal prosecutors and may plead guilty. The charge carries a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Thornsbury’s attorney, Stephen Jory, did not immediately comment.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charleston declined to say whether Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks or County Commissioner Dave Baisden will be charged for their roles in the scheme. Former Sheriff Eugene Crum, meanwhile, died in an April shooting apparently unrelated to the conspiracy.
Thornsbury was indicted last month in a separate corruption case alleging that he’d abused his power to try to frame a romantic rival for false crimes. Prosecutors say Thornsbury had an affair with his secretary and tried to frame her husband repeatedly between 2008 and 2012 after she broke things off.
He’s accused of enlisting the help of a state trooper and commandeering the grand jury in that scheme and was set to stand trial next month.
Prosecutors didn’t immediately say how the new case will affect those charges.
The latest charges stem from a debt dispute between the former sheriff and a local signmaker, who prosecutors say told the FBI he’d been selling Crum illegal narcotics.
The documents say that Crum, Sparks, Baisden and others arranged for the man to be arrested and indicted on drug charges. They then pressured him into firing his own attorney and hiring one of their choosing in exchange for a lighter sentence.