Woodruff, husband sue Thornsbury, others for harassment
by By Kyle Lovern
CHARLESTON (AP) — The former secretary of a Mingo County judge facing corruption charges says her boss relentlessly pursued her, professed his love in a letter, then plotted to frame her husband for false crimes when she refused repeated demands for a sexual relationship.
Kimberly Woodruff and her husband, Robert, filed separate lawsuits Monday against suspended Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury after mediation efforts with him and seven other defendants failed. The cases, filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court, demand unspecified compensatory damages for legal bills and lost wages, as well as punitive damages.
Thornsbury was indicted last month on federal conspiracy charges for alleged crimes against Robert Woodruff. He was then charged in a separate conspiracy involving a campaign sign-maker and the former sheriff, Eugene Crum.
In the second case, federal prosecutors say Thornsbury conspired with Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks, Crum and a county commissioner to spare the sheriff from paying a $3,000 debt and protect his career by jailing a man who sold him drugs. Crum died in April in an unrelated shooting, and Sparks has denied wrongdoing.
Thornsbury, however, is expected to plead guilty Wednesday in exchange for the dismissal of the Woodruff case. His attorney hasn’t commented on any of the criminal charges and didn’t immediately comment on the civil case.
The complaint filed by Charleston attorney Mike Callaghan also targets the people who allegedly tried to help frame Robert Woodruff, and their employers, as well as the Mingo County Commission and the administrator of the state Supreme Court.
Kim Woodruff alleges sexual harassment, wrongful termination, negligence and deliberate infliction of emotional distress.
Robert Woodruff charges the defendants with deprivation of rights, false imprisonment, conspiracy to create a malicious prosecution, negligence and infliction of emotional distress.
Kim Woodruff says she endured a hostile work environment from January 1997 through March 2009, with Thornsbury telling her “the two of them were meant to be together forever” and she would eventually realize it.
She says Thornsbury also told her that her husband was cheating on her and dealing drugs, in hopes of coercing her into sex. He also allegedly warned her that if her husband were ever arrested, he would have to fire her.
The complaint says that Kim Woodruff nonetheless rebuffed Thornsbury’s requests.
“By the standards of Mingo County, plaintiff had an excellent job with excellent health and retirement benefits,” the complaint says, “and plaintiff was reluctant to forgo the salary and benefits even in the face of a hostile work environment.”
Eventually, though, Robert Woodruff was arrested “on trumped up charges,” the complaint says, and Thornsbury fired his wife “as part and parcel of his plot to force plaintiff into his bed and/or as vengeance for unrequited lust.”
Federal prosecutors say Thornsbury tried between 2008 and 2012 to frame Robert Woodruff for crimes including drug possession, larceny and assault. The schemes allegedly involved a state trooper, the county emergency services director, and a friend and business partner of the judge, but none of them panned out.
Prosecutors say the judge first tried to plant a box of drugs in Robert Woodruff’s car, then got a trooper to pursue a criminal case against Woodruff for salvaging mine-roof drill bits and scrap from the company he worked for, even though he had permission to do so.
They also allege that Thornsbury tapped a friend, the county’s emergency services director, to improperly serve as foreman of the Mingo County grand jury.
Prosecutors say the judge wrote subpoenas and had the grand jury issue them to help get private information about Woodruff. They said that scheme was exposed when one of the businesses refused to cooperate.
And when Robert Woodruff became the victim of an assault outside a convenience store last year by two men, the judge arranged for Woodruff to be identified as the perpetrator, according to prosecutors.
Thornsbury, 57, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the two federal counts of conspiracy.
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