Mingo prosecutor steps down in sheriff murder case
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A state agency wants the state Supreme Court to suspend Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks' law license following new allegations included in federal court documents.
A petition filed Thursday by The Office of Disciplinary Counsel asks the license be suspended until it can complete its investigation of the matter.
"(Sparks), the elected, chief law enforcement officer in the county, has engaged in a continued pattern of egregious misconduct under the color of his position," the petition states.
The Supreme Court met Thursday to talk about the petition and is expected to release an order today, according to a news release.
The petition references a federal indictment and information — similar to an indictment —alleging a slew of misconduct by Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury.
The indictment alleges Thornsbury corrupted the legal system in repeated attempts to frame the husband of his ex-lover. The information states Thornsbury worked with several elected officials on a scheme to prevent a man from telling the FBI about drug activity by the late Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum.
In both the indictment and information, federal investigators allege Sparks either knew or participated in wrongdoing.
The indictment, filed in late August, states Sparks knew allegations against Robert Woodruff — the husband Thornsbury allegedly attempted to frame — were improper.
The allegations against Sparks are much more severe in the information, filed Thursday in federal court. It claims Sparks arranged for a lighter sentence for a man named George White after White hired a new attorney favored by Thornsbury and Sparks.
White's first attorney, Charles "Butch" West, ran against Sparks and lost in the 2012 primary election. After the first indictment was filed, West called for Sparks to resign.
"There is sufficient evidence to establish that (Sparks) has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct; that (Sparks) is a substantial threat of irreparable harm; he is unable and/or unwilling to represent and protect the interests of the citizens of Mingo County, West Virginia; and there is good cause shown to immediately suspend his law license . . ." the petition states.
Sparks did not answer several calls from the Daily Mail.
He vehemently defended himself in an interview Thursday with the Williamson Daily News.
"I fully expected Judge Thornsbury to engage in dishonest measures and to make false allegations against me, to exact vengeance against me in retaliation for my cooperation with his federal investigation," Sparks said, according to the Daily News.
"With that being said, I pray that the U.S. Attorney's office will realize that . . . Thornsbury has every reason in the world to try to bury me."
Sparks took to social media Thursday to continue professing his innocence. He posted on his Facebook page that he was shocked at the "unfounded accusations" and denied the allegations.
"Thornsbury is a sinister, vindictive womanizer that abused the powers of his judgeship in multiple attempts to falsely incriminate a romantic rival," Sparks wrote. "There is evidence that Thornsbury has engaged in other criminal and unethical activity. I expected to be a target of false information and vengeance since I substantially assisted the federal investigation of Thornsbury."
"Although I have not been charged with any crime, I look forward to aggressively defending my integrity and refuting these unfounded accusations," he wrote.
He told the newspaper White pleaded guilty to two felony charges, agreed to a $10,000 fine and went to prison. The plea deal was offered to him in January, Sparks said.
Sparks, alluding to the indictment against Thornsbury, accused the judge of lying to investigators about the prosecutor's involvement.
"It's apparent that I am going to be the next (Robert Woodruff) on his hit list of who he plans to lie on and frame for something that they did not do. I am clearly the target that he has in the sights of his gun," Sparks told the Daily News.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel began its investigation after the indictment. On Wednesday, Sparks confirmed the investigation was ongoing. He said he'd recently received a letter from the office asking him to send them a response to details in the indictment.
"We have not concluded at this time you have engaged in any wrongful conduct but we are concerned about the circumstances surrounding the matter," Sparks said Wednesday, reading from the letter.
Sparks also announced Wednesday he had asked to be disqualified as the prosecutor in the case against Tennis Melvin Maynard, the man accused of murdering Crum. Thursday Sparks said some of the information included in the federal information led him to decide he could not adequately serve as the prosecutor in that case.
Lonnie Simmons is representing Sparks regarding the investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. Simmons is a longtime attorney who works for Charleston law firm DiTrapano Barrett DiPiero McGinley & Simmons.
Simmons said Sparks plans to file a response to the allegations soon, and said the response would speak for itself.