Uphold Sentence For Corrupt Judge

Corrupt officials deserve severe punishment for abusing the trust placed in them by the public. When bad apples are found among police, prosecutors and judges, the abuse is doubly harmful to our form of government.

Mingo County has been a rat’s nest of corruption, as investigations during the past few years show. Among those caught abusing the public’s trust was Michael Thornsbury, who had been a circuit judge.

Thornsbury had an affair with a courthouse secretary. He decided he wanted her husband out of the way, so, in a conspiracy that included some law enforcement officials, he attempted to frame the man for various crimes including drug possession, larceny and assault. He attempted more than once to send the man to prison.

What Thornsbury did affected more than the innocent man he tried to frame. His crimes were the worst nightmare of people who do not have faith in our system of justice.

But there was more. Thornsbury also was part of a scheme to protect the county’s sheriff from accusations he had been buying drugs illegally. The sheriff, Eugene Crum, was murdered about a year ago.

Evidence against Thornsbury was solid, so he pleaded guilty to a corruption charge in federal court.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnson sentenced Thornsbury to 50 months in prison. That was in excess of the 30-37-month term recommended under federal sentencing guidelines, but Johnson agreed with prosecutors the ex-judge deserved more time behind bars.

Now Thornsbury’s attorneys say they will appeal the sentence because it was in excess of federal guidelines. The case will be heard by the 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Richmond.

Thornsbury’s crimes undermine faith in our system of justice. We have had too much of that in West Virginia.

Appeals court judges should uphold Johnson’s decision. If anything, Thornsbury deserves more time in prison for attempting to use his post to victimize others and cover up for a sheriff alleged to have been buying illegal drugs.