CHARLESTON – Two Mingo County officials will remain free on unsecured bond until their October trial dates in Federal District Court in Charleston.
Magistrate Judge Dwane L. Tinsley presided at the arraignments for Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and County Commissioner David Baisden during brief hearings Wednesday at the Charleston Federal Courthouse.
After Thornsbury entered an “absolutely not guilty” plea and Baisden pleaded “not guilty,” Tinsley allowed the men to remain free on the $10,000 unsecured bonds set earlier.
Thornsbury stood first before Judge Tinsley, represented by his attorney Steve Jory of Elkins. After the Circuit Judge was sworn in and read his Miranda rights by Tinsley, he was asked to enter a plea. That was when Thornsbury in a clear, strong voice responded, “Absolutely not guilty.”
With that, Tinsley assigned the case to Federal Judge Thomas Johnston and said the trial will begin October 15 in Charleston. Thornsbury is accused of targeting the husband of his then-assistant, with whom he had an affair in 2008. Allegations include charges that the Circuit Judge ordered drugs planted in his assistant’s truck and tried to have the man jailed for a fight that was instigated by two other men.
Thornsbury, 57, is alleged to have used Mingo County Emergency Services Director Jarrod Fletcher in his schemes to harm the woman’s husband. Fletcher was suspended without pay Wednesday morning in Williamson. A state police office who allegedly participated in Thornsbury’s schemes has been suspended pending an internal investigation.
A pre-trial motion hearing in the case is set for September 26 with other pre-trial motions due by September 16. Proposed jury instructions are to be submitted by October 4 with witness lists provided by both the government and defense by October 11. Steve Ruby, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, spoke for the government during both hearings Wednesday.
Thornsbury told Tinsley he had located his passport, which had been missing, and surrendered it to Federal authorities.
Next, Baisden was sworn and read his rights. He then entered a not guilty plea and was allowed to remain on the $10,000 unsecured bond. Tinsley said Baisden’s case had been assigned to Judge John Copenhaver.
Baisden’s trial date was set for October 21. The pre-trial motion hearing is planned for September 20 with motions due by September 23. Proposed jury instructions are due by October 16 with the witness lists due on October 18.
In developments related to the cases, Baisden, who was the county purchasing agent in addition to his role as Commissioner, resigned the purchasing position this week. He has given no indication he intends to resign his Commission post, however. Rumors circulated in Mingo County that the two other remaining Commissioners would attempt to remove Baisden from office or, at least, suspend him without pay. However, attorneys familiar with state law said the Commission does not have that authority over elected officials. One noted, however, that any Mingo elected official could petition the court for Baisen’s removal and a three-judge panel would be appointed to hear the case.
Baisden is accused of using his position in an attempt to extort a special government price for tires on his personal vehicle. According to the Federal indictment, Baisden ordered an employee to threaten to cut off county business with Appalachian Tire if they did not offer the Commissioner the government rate. When Appalachian refused, it is alleged that Baisden ordered tires for the county purchased from a different vendor.
United States Attorney Booth Goodwin has said that investigations into Mingo County corruption are continuing.