WV Supreme Court sets hearing on Mingo prosecutor's law license - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV Supreme Court to address Mingo prosecutor's law license

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The West Virginia Supreme Court has set a hearing Oct. 16 to determine whether to suspend the law license of  Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks. 

A federal indictment unsealed in August indicated Sparks participated or knew about illegal actions committed by other Mingo County officials, including former Judge Michael Thornsbury, Mingo County Commissioner Dave Baisden and the late Sheriff Eugene Crum.

Last week, the Office of Disciplinary Council submitted a petition, asking to suspend Sparks' law license.

Sparks, through his attorney, Lonnie Simmons, filed two responses, maintaining his innocence. Simmons released a third to the press Thursday.

The ODC filed a supplement to the petition Wednesday, saying Sparks failed to report Thornsbury's conduct as alleged in the two court filings.

The first indictment against former Mingo County Judge Michael Thornsbury asserted he tried to frame his ex-lover's husband in several schemes, including planting drugs on the man's truck and hijacking a grand jury to frame the romantic rival.

The newest filing asserted the former judge worked with Crum, Sparks and Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden to arrange for a lighter sentence of a Mingo County man if he replaced his attorney with their recommended lawyer.

The ODC's filing also said Sparks gave an interview to a Charleston TV station, talking about concerns with indictments returned from the questioned grand jury. The foreperson of that grand jury, Jarrod Fletcher, was ineligible to serve because he was Thornsbury's business partner.

In his response, Sparks said none of the convicted defendants in this grand jury has challenged their convictions on this ground and he is not aware of actions he has taken in connection with indictments issued by the grand jury.

The ODC argued Sparks hasn't sought a special prosecutor to review these cases.

"At a minimum, (Sparks') failure to take any action or report Judge Thornsbury's actions is deplorable," the ODC's filing states. "However, (Sparks') overt involvement in the G.W. conspiracy, brings into question his fitness to serve as an attorney, and to allow (Sparks) to conduct a review of the 100 indictments issued by the Fletcher grand jury is a conflict of interest and a clear example of an appearance of impropriety."

The supplement also was submitted with a sealed letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby and an affidavit from FBI special agent Joe Ciccarelli. 

The ODC says Sparks admitted to the U.S. Attorney's office "his role, overt actions and knowledge of the conspiracy as well as other misconduct." 

Sparks through his attorney, filed a response, asking for more time to respond to the supplement. In his response, Sparks said he has not been charged with a crime and has filed expedited responses in opposition.

Sparks denied he committed violations of the rules of professional conduct and also denied he committed any crime, the response states.

In his response, Sparks asserts he has "strived to carry out his ethical duties in Mingo County in front of a judge who, as indicated in the allegations asserted in the indictment and information, was very powerful."

Two public officials have been charged thus far in a federal investigation into corruption in Mingo County. In addition to Thornsbury, Baisden was charged in an unrelated indictment with threatening and later telling Appalachian Tire it had lost the commission's business after the company refused to let him buy a set of tires at the government rate for his personal vehicle.

According to court filings, Baisden's plea is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Oct.1 and Thornsbury's plea is set for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 2, both in Charleston federal court.