August 16, 2013
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury was arrested Thursday after federal authorities allege he targeted his ex-lover’s husband and used his position on the bench to manipulate criminal charges against the man.
The indictment, returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Charleston, charges Thornsbury with conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of his former secretary’s husband. An indictment means that grand jurors have decided that enough evidence exists to warrant a criminal trial.
The former secretary and her husband were identified by their initials in the indictment. A statement from the lawyer for the former secretary and her husband identified them as Kim and Robert Woodruff, according to The Associated Press.
Prosecutors allege Thornsbury, the county’s only circuit judge, put his business partner in charge of a Mingo grand jury as foreman, plotted to plant drugs on Robert Woodruff and tried to get the man sent to jail.
Thornsbury, a Democrat, “persecuted his secretary’s husband, his romantic rival” and used the justice system for his own “nefarious purpose,” Booth Goodwin, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, said in a Thursday news conference.
Thornsbury surrendered himself to authorities in Charleston. After an initial appearance in federal court, he was released on $10,000 bond.
A State Police trooper and a Mingo County official who allegedly helped the judge will not be charged, federal prosecutors said.
The state Supreme Court decided Thursday to suspend Thornsbury without pay, and also to suspend his law license. Chief Justice Brent Benjamin appointed John Cummings, a senior status judge from Cabell County, to replace Thornsbury on the Mingo County bench. Thomas McHugh, a retired state Supreme Court justice, will assist Cummings.
Thornsbury, 57, of Williamson, has served as circuit judge since 1997. He allegedly began a relationship with his secretary in early 2008.
After Kim Woodruff broke off the relationship in June 2008, prosecutors say, Thornsbury asked his friend Jeff Cline to plant drugs underneath Robert Woodruff’s pickup truck. The judge had allegedly made plans for police to pull Woodruff over and conduct a search.
Cline backed out at the last minute, prosecutors say.
The indictment also alleges Thornsbury enlisted State Police Trooper Brandon Moore, who worked in the Williamson detachment, to file a criminal complaint against Robert Woodruff, accusing him of stealing scrap metal from his employer.
Woodruff worked at a coal preparation plant, where mined coal was processed before being shipped. There, he removed scrap metal that had fallen in with the coal.
When Thornsbury found that Woodruff’s supervisors allowed him to salvage drill bits, among other scraps that could be repurposed, he allegedly persuaded Moore to file a criminal complaint against him.
Moore — who was named West Virginia State Police “Trooper of the Year” in 2010 — resisted at first because he knew Woodruff’s bosses allowed him to take the metal, according to prosecutors. But the trooper eventually gave in to the judge and filed the complaint, the indictment alleges.
Then-Magistrate Eugene Crum issued a warrant and Woodruff was arrested and charged with grand larceny in December 2008. Crum eventually dismissed the charge after county prosecutor Michael Sparks disqualified himself from the case — which, according to the indictment, could have led to discovery of Thornsbury’s scheme.
Prosecutors also identified one of Thornsbury’s business partners as part of the conspiracy.
In January 2009, Thornsbury chose Jarrod Fletcher, Mingo County’s director of homeland security and emergency management, to be the foreman of a new grand jury.
Fletcher owned a commercial real estate business and a wine shop with Thornsbury. The two also were joint debtors on $1.8 million in business loans.
The business relationship between Thornsbury and Fletcher was not widely known at the time, and Thornsbury did not disclose it when he made Fletcher the grand jury foreman, prosecutors say.
With Fletcher in charge of the grand jury, Thornsbury was allegedly able to sway the jury’s authority and use it to victimize Robert Woodruff.
The judge allegedly created a set of self-styled subpoenas, which Fletcher signed, ordering Woodruff’s employer and various other local companies to surrender private documents about him, the indictment alleges.
While most companies handed over the documents, one of the companies, identified as DBC Inc. in the indictment, requested more time to respond.
Thornsbury entered an order denying that request. But DBC waged a legal battle against the subpoena and eventually discovered the business ties between the judge and Fletcher, which the company revealed in a court filing, prosecutors say.
That forced Thornsbury to abandon his plan to use the grand jury against Woodruff, prosecutors say — but they say it wasn’t the judge’s last attempt.
Last year, Woodruff was involved in an altercation with two men at a convenience store. One of the men swung at Woodruff and the other pulled a gun. The two men were arrested and charged with assault.
But about a month later, the charges against those two men were dismissed, and, instead, Woodruff was charged with assault and battery.

Leave a Comment: