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Friday, April 21, 2023

Judge Michael Thornsbury

     There are many jurisdictions in the United States that have earned reputations of being awash in governmental corruption. For example, nothing is politically on the level in the states of Louisiana and Nevada and the cities of Detroit and Chicago. But to varying degrees, governmental fraud, dishonesty, crime and abuse of power on the federal, state and local levels flourishes everywhere in America. Whenever you have government, big or small, you have corruption. Government is nothing more than organized lying. Government and corruption go together like pancakes and syrup. You can't have one without the other. And corruption is not just limited to big cities and states. It exists in places like Mingo County West Virginia. 

     Mingo County, home to 27,000, is located on the state's southern border with Kentucky. This place, going all the way back to its Hatfield and McCoy days, has a history of violence and political corruption. In 1997, the people of Mingo County elected Michael Thorsbury to the office of circuit judge. As the only common pleas judge in the county, Thornsbury held a position of power and influence. He was the proverbial big fish in the small pond. Unfortunately he was a piranha.

     In 2008, Judge Thornsbury became romantically involved with his married secretary. A couple of months after he begged her to leave her husband, Robert Woodruff, she ended her relationship with the judge. This is when things started to get bad for Mr. Woodruff.

     Judge Thornsbury, in a effort to railroad Mr. Woodruff into prison, asked a friend to plant drugs in a magnetic box under his car. The judge, thinking that his friend had carried out the assignment tipped-off the local police.

     Having failed to set Mr. Woodruff up for a phony drug bust, Judge Thornsbury tried something else. After carefully cultivating a friendship with a West Virginia State Trooper, the judge asked the officer to file a false complaint accusing Woodruff of grand larceny. The cop followed through by accusing Woodruff of stealing drill bits from his coal company employer. Mr. Woodruff had salvaged old drill bits, but with the company's permission. Mingo County prosecutor Michael Sparks intervened on Woodruff's behalf and a local magistrate dismissed the case. The state trooper, the next year, was named West Virginia State Trooper of the Year. 

     Determined to get Robert Woodruff out of the way in order to get to his wife, Judge Thornsbury, in an effort to dig up dirt on his target, appointed a friend to the position of foreman of a Mingo County Grand Jury. This gave the Judge's friend the power to issue subpoenas as part of a fishing expedition in search of information the judge could use against Mr. Woodruff. When the recipient of one of these bogus subpoenas refused to cooperate, the Judge's scheme fizzled out.

     In 2012, Mr. Woodruff was assaulted outside a convenience store by two men, one of whom brandished a handgun. Judge Thornsbury tried to turn Mr. Woodruff from being the victim of the assault to its perpetrator. Once again, the county prosecutor refused to go along with the phony case.

     On August 15, 2013, FBI agents arrested Judge Thornsbury in Williamson, the Mingo County seat. The jurist was under indictment by a federal grand jury for "conspiring to violate Robert Woodruff's right not to be deprived of his liberty without due process of law." If convicted as charged, the 57-year-old judge faced up to 20 years in prison.

     On the day of Judge Thornsbury's arrest, the West Virginia Supreme Court suspended him without pay and lifted his license to practice law.

     Judge Thornsbury, after posting his $10,00 bond, insisted that he was innocent and predicted that he would be vindicated when his case went to trial.

     On October 2, 2013, Thornsbury entered pleas of guilty of conspiring to deprive Robert Woodruff of his constitutional rights. He also resigned from office. The federal judge sentenced Mr. Thornsbury to 50 months in federal prison.

1 comment:

  1. Judge thornsbury got exactly what he gave everyone he sentenced in that year, like my sister that was totally innocent, no sympathy here.