Cops: Scorned Judge Tried to Frame Romantic Rival

West Virginia's Michael Thornsbury accused of series of plots

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 16, 2013 6:42 AM CDT

(Newser) – They take their rivalries seriously in Mingo County, West Virginia. But even residents like the Hatfields and McCoys of yore might do a double-take at the allegations against Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury. He is accused of having an affair with his secretary and then trying for years to frame and imprison her husband after the affair went sour in 2008, reports the Charleston Gazette. Some examples from yesterday's federal indictment:

  • Thornsbury allegedly plotted to have a friend plant drugs under the husband's truck, then have troopers pick him up. The friend backed out at the last minute.

  • Thornsbury allegedly got a state trooper to arrest the husband on false grand larceny charges—claiming that he stole scrap metal from his job, even though his employer had given permission to take it—then installed a business associate as foreman of the grand jury. The case unraveled when one of the subpoenaed businesses made public the ties between the judge and the foreman, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • When the husband was the victim of an armed assault outside a convenience store, prosecutors say the judge arranged to have the charges dropped against the two assailants—then had the husband charged as the perpetrator. He allegedly pressured prosecutors to try to imprison the husband for six months over the incident, but they dropped the charges, reports AP.
  • In short, "he corrupted the system of justice in Mingo County for his own nefarious purposes," says a US attorney. Thornsbury's law license has been suspended as the criminal conspiracy case proceeds.
(Click for another surprising bust that occurred yesterday—involving a princess.)

A 2004 photo of Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury.
A 2004 photo of Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury.   (AP Photo/Chris Dorst)
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