EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSFormer Mingo Prosecutor Michael Sparks Pleads Guilty
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Bob Aaron
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Reported: Nov. 18, 2013 2:10 PM EST
Updated: Nov. 19, 2013 9:31 AM EST
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Former Mingo county prosecutor Michael Sparks pleaded guilty Monday in a federal corruption probe.
Sparks, 44, is accused in an alleged scheme to protect former Mingo Sheriff Eugene Crum from being exposed about a drug deal.
Prosecutors allege Sparks, former commissioner David Baisden, 66, and former circuit judge Michael Thornsbury, 57, offered a lighter sentence if an alleged drug dealer fired his lawyer and hired one they preferred.
Baisden pleaded guilty to an unrelated federal charge in connection with a scheme to illegally extort a discount from a Mingo County tire store. Baisden resigned from the Mingo County Commission in October. He faces up to 20 years in prison when is sentenced on Jan. 14, 2014, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
Thornsbury previously pleaded guilty in October for his role in the scheme to protect Crum and deprive G.W., the alleged drug dealer, of his rights. Thornsbury faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 13, 2014, according to the release.
Sparks made his plea in federal court in Charleston.
“Prosecutors are the representatives of the people. Instead of advancing the interests of the good people of Mingo County, Mr. Sparks chose to roll over for the special interests of a corrupt political faction,” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
Earlier this year, a Mingo County drug defendant, identified as “G.W.,” began to provide the FBI with information about alleged misconduct by then Sheriff Crum, including illegal drug use and election law violations.
Crum learned that G.W., along with G.W.’s attorney, wase providing information about Crum to the FBI. Crum and other Mingo elected officials, including Sparks and Thornsbury, carried out a plan to protect Crum and to stop G.W. from informing to the FBI. They arranged to offer G.W. a favorable plea deal if he would fire his attorney, identified as “C.W.,” who was assisting G.W.’s communication with federal authorities, and replace him with an attorney chosen by Crum and the other elected officials, according to the release.
The investigation is being conducted by the FBI and the West Virginia State Police.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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