Michael Thornsbury

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Michael Thornsbury
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Court Information:
Thirtieth Judicial Circuit, West Virginia
Title:   Former judge
Active:   1997-2013
Succeeded by:   Miki J. Thompson
Past position:   Attorney in private practice
Past term:   1983-1997
Past position 2:   Prosecutor, Mingo County
Past term 2:   1981-1983
Personal History
Undergraduate:   Pikeville College
Law School:   University of Kentucky

Michael Thornsbury was a judge of the Thirtieth Judicial Circuit in West Virginia. He began serving in this position in January 1997. On October 2, 2013, he entered a plea of guilty to a federal criminal charge and resigned from office.[1] He was sentenced on June 9, 2014, to 50 months in federal prison.[2]

The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission interviewed candidates to replace Thornsbury and serve out the remaining three years of his term. The West Virginia Supreme Court named senior status judge John Cummings, of Cabell County, to serve on the court until a replacement is chosen.[3]


Thornsbury received his B.A. from Pikeville College and his J.D. from the University of Kentucky. He was admitted to the bar in 1980.[4]


Misconduct allegations

Charged with conspiracy (2013)

Thornsbury was charged on August 13, 2013 with two counts of conspiracy for allegedly attempting to frame the husband of his secretary, and former mistress. Two days later, the West Virginia Supreme Court suspended him without pay and suspended his law license.[5]

Thornsbury had an affair with his secretary, Kim Woodruff in early 2008, according to the indictment filed in federal court. When she ended the relationship, Thornsbury allegedly attempted to frame her husband, Robert Woodruff. The indictment listed the following charges against Judge Thornsbury, stating that they occurred in 2008, 2009 and 2012:

[Judge Thornsbury] engaged in criminal conspiracies to violate the constitutional rights of victim R.W. . .Judge Thornsbury conspired to plant illegal drugs on R.W.'s pickup truck; to have R.W. arrested for thefts he did not commit; to commandeer a state grand jury and use it to oppress R.W. and his family; and, after an incident in which R.W. was the victim of an assault, to arrange for R.W., rather than the perpetrator, to receive an exceptionally harsh sentence.[7][8]

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley set the arraignment for August 21, 2013 and released Thornsbury on a $10,000 unsecured bond.[9]

Thornsbury pleads not guilty

Thornsbury was arraigned on August 21, 2013. He entered a plea of not guilty to two federal charges of conspiracy for alleged attempts to frame the husband of his secretary and former mistress. A pre-trial hearing took place on September 26, 2013, and his trial was set for October 15, 2013.[10]

The administrator for the West Virginia Supreme Court, Steve Canterbury, filed a complaint with the judicial investigation commission against Thornsbury.

Representatives from the West Virginia House of Delegates plan to introduce legislation to add a second circuit judge for Mingo County. They hope having two judges will increase accountability and allow the court to operate more efficiently.[11]

Thornsbury accepts plea agreement

On October 2, 2013, Thornsbury entered a plea of guilty to a charge of conspiring to deprive R.W. of his constitutional rights. He entered into the plea agreement with federal prosecutors and resigned from office.[1] He was scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Thomas Johnston of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.[12][13]

Thornsbury sentenced

Federal Judge Thomas Johnston of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia gave Michael Thornsbury 50 months behind bars, a steep penalty considering he was expecting 30 to 37 months. Judge Johnston, however, wanted the sentence to serve as a warning and a reminder to others in Mingo County, which is known for corruption. In addition to Thornsbury, a former county prosecutor and county commissioner were implicated in the conspiracy ring. The county sheriff, Eugene Crum, would have been as well, but he was shot and killed in his patrol car in April 2013.

Federal prosecutors agreed to drop charges against Thornsbury for violating another man's constitutional rights. This man, Robert Woodruff, is the husband of Thornsbury's former secretary, Kim. Thornsbury wished to strike up an affair with Kim and felt if he got Robert out of the picture, she would turn to him.

Thornsbury asked to serve his sentence in a federal prison in Florida or Alabama, near where he has family.[14] [2]

See also

External links


West VirginiaSupreme Court of Appeals of West VirginiaWest Virginia Circuit CourtsWest Virginia Family CourtsWest Virginia Magistrate CourtsWest Virginia Municipal CourtsUnited States District Court for the Northern District of West VirginiaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of West VirginiaUnited States bankruptcy court, Northern District of West VirginiaUnited States bankruptcy court, Southern District of West VirginiaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fourth CircuitWest Virginia countiesWest Virginia judicial newsWest Virginia judicial electionsJudicial selection in West VirginiaWestVirginiaTemplate.jpg