Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

August 19, 2013

Mingo lawmakers: Circuit needs two full-time judges

CHARLESTON (AP) — At least two Mingo County legislators say it’s time to add a second judge to the southern West Virginia circuit that currently only has one.

Judge Michael Thornsbury was indicted last week on two federal counts of conspiracy and suspended the same day. The state Supreme Court promptly appointed two judges to handle his case load.

Delegates Harry Keith White and Justin Marcum said Monday that they’ll introduce legislation during the next session to permanently create a second post.

White, who is House Majority Leader, said citizens of the 30th Judicial Circuit deserve access to an effective court system without delay.

Most circuits have two judges, said Marcum, an assistant prosecutor for the county.

“We think this legislation would help ensure our judicial system operates effectively, and establish more accountability within the circuit,” he said.

State Sens. Art Kirkendoll and Ron Stollings have expressed support.

Thornsbury, the only circuit judge since 1997, is accused of commandeering the grand jury in a series of failed attempts to frame a romantic rival for crimes the man did not commit.

Thornsbury, 57, is free on $10,000 bond and set to appear for an arraignment in U.S. District Court in Charleston on Wednesday. His attorney has declined comment.

The indictment says Thornsbury tried between 2008 and 2012 to frame Robert Woodruff for crimes including drug possession, larceny and assault. The married judge had been having an affair with his secretary — Woodruff’s wife — and he tried to eliminate the competition after she tried to break things off, it says.

The schemes involved a state trooper, the grand jury foreman and another man, the indictment says, but none of them panned out.


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