A West Virginia judge was arrested today and charged with trying to frame his romantic rival.
An indictment against long-time circuit judge Michael Thornsbury was unsealed today accusing him of trying to frame his ex-mistress’ husband and then trying to trick a grand jury into filing criminal charges against the man.
In early 2008, Thornsbury began a romantic relationship with his secretary, repeatedly pleading with her to leave her husband so they could have a “deeper romantic involvement,” according to federal prosecutors. When his secretary, identified only as “K.W.” in court documents, broke off the relationship months later, Thornsbury allegedly told an unidentified associate to plant illegal drugs under the husband’s truck.
Thornsbury then tipped off police to the drugs, according to the indictment, but the unidentified associate backed out of the plan at the last minute and never planted the drugs, according to the indictment.
Still determined to be with “K.W.,” Thornsbury allegedly persuaded a West Virginia state trooper to file a criminal complaint against the husband, identified in court papers as “R.W.,” accusing him of stealing material from the coal plant where he worked. “R.W.” was subsequently arrested for grand larceny in December 2008, and a grand jury was impaneled a month later.
Thornsbury planned to use the grand jury to charge “R.W.” criminally, according to the indictment, but the grand jury declined to indict.
Thornsbury, 57, has served as Mingo County’s sole circuit judge since 1997, according to the Justice Department.
Specifically, the indictment unsealed Thursday charges him with conspiring to violate “R.W.’s” right against unreasonable arrest, guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and his right not to be deprived of his liberty without due process of law, guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, the Justice Department said.
After an initial appearance before a federal judge in Charleston, W.V., Thornsbury was released on $10,000 unsecured bond. He did not enter a plea. The judge will be arraigned Wednesday.
Within hours of the charges being announced today, the administrative director for West Virginia courts filed a complaint with the state’s Judicial Investigation Commission, which will decide whether to recommend that Thornsbury be suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case against him. The state supreme court will have the final say.
“I can’t pretend it’s not a black eye for the state’s judiciary,” administrative director Steve Canterbury told ABC News. “But the whole of West Virginia’s judiciary is sound.”
The last time a judge in West Virginia was similarly indicted by a federal grand jury was about 20 years, Canterbury said.
The FBI and West Virginia State Police helped conduct the investigation into Thornsbury.