Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 30, 2013

W.Va. office investigating Mingo County prosecutor

Associated Press

CHARLESTON — Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks is being investigated by a lawyer disciplinary office for what he says is his knowledge of the conduct of a judge facing federal charges.  

The Charleston Gazette reports the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel is investigating Sparks.

A federal grand jury this month charged Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury with two conspiracy counts. Thornsbury is accused of having an affair with his secretary and trying to frame her husband for several crimes, including drug possession, larceny and assault.

State counsel chief attorney Rachael Cipoletti declined to say why Sparks is being investigated. But Sparks points to the federal indictment that says he knew of the affair.

The State Bar’s rules of professional conduct require lawyers to report judicial misconduct that “raises a substantial question as to the judge’s fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.”

Sparks has defended his failure to report Thornsbury.

“I believed he was having an affair,” Sparks said. “I believed that despite the lack of evidence. He was a very vindictive person — and I had been the recipient of his vindictiveness before.

“Perhaps it was an error that I didn’t report it, but I didn’t think I could prove it. I would hope that they will take into consideration the unique circumstances of my situation and any other member of the Mingo County Bar. I’m not the only member of the Mingo County Bar that was aware of his misconduct.”

State Bar President Harry Dietzler has said a prosecutor would want to be sure of the facts before accusing a judge of illegal conduct.

Federal prosecutors claim Thornsbury had an affair with his secretary, Kim Woodruff, and tried to frame her husband, Robert. Authorities said none of the schemes panned out for Thornsbury.

Thornsbury has pleaded not guilty and remains free on bond facing an Oct. 15 trial.