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Lawyer board files more charges against Mingo prosecutor

Federal prosecutors provided the state lawyer Office of Disciplinary Counsel with proof that Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks admitted his involvement in a conspiracy involving other county officials, the office says in a new Supreme Court filing.Rachael Cipoletti, chief attorney for the ODC, filed charges of more alleged misconduct by Sparks on Wednesday evening with the West Virginia Supreme Court. She has asked the court to immediately suspend Sparks' law license.The Supreme Court set a hearing for Oct. 16 to hear arguments.Sparks' attorney, Lonnie Simmons, filed a response Thursday morning pointing out that Sparks hasn't been charged by federal prosecutors and continues to perform his duties as county prosecutor.The information Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby provided Cipoletti is sealed, but she wrote that it details "admissions made by [Sparks] to federal authorities as it pertains to the conspiracies as outlined in the Thornsbury Indictment and Thornsbury Information."According to a federal information charge filed last week against Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, three county officials -- Sparks, Sheriff Eugene Crum and Commissioner David Baisden -- conspired to interrupt a federal investigation of Crum and cover up allegations that Crum illegally received prescription painkillers from a drug dealerLast month, Sparks, who has been the county prosecutor since 2005, was mentioned in a federal indictment that charged Thornsbury with conspiring to get his former secretary's husband thrown in jail. Sparks testified before a federal grand jury on Aug. 14, according to court documents.Sparks was not given immunity by federal prosecutors, the ODC's filing points out.Ruby gave Cipoletti a sworn affidavit from FBI Special Agent Joseph Ciccarelli that detail Sparks's admissions, according to the filing. Also, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Robert Chambers issued a sealed order which will allow grand jury materials that pertain to Sparks' disciplinary proceedings to be provided to the Supreme Court, the filing states. "By his own admissions to the United States Attorney and the Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, [Sparks'] verified response to the ethics complaint filed with this Court are false," according to the ODC.The state Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a petition last week asking the Supreme Court to immediately suspend Sparks' law license.Sparks has said he never engaged in any misconduct and never had enough information to report alleged misconduct by other public officials.Thornsbury is expected to plead guilty on Wednesday to the charge in the information, concerning the conspiracy to shut down the federal investigation into Crum.Cipoletti attached a sworn affidavit to the ODC's filing from George White, the drug dealer whose rights were allegedly violated by Thornsbury and others.
Sparks and Baisden allegedly told White's brother that White would get a light sentence if he would stop talking to federal investigators about Crum. They also asked White to fire his lawyer, Charles "Butch" West.
In the ODC's filing, Cipoletti also provided the Supreme Court with a signed affidavit from West -- whom Thornsbury, Crum, Baisden and Sparks allegedly wanted off the case in favor of former county prosecutor Ronald Rumora."Mr. White also informed me that Eugene Crum had sold him moonshine and whisky and had brought oxycodone from him while he was Magistrate of Mingo County," West's affidavit states. "Mr. White indicated that Mr. Crum had made several buys of oxycodone from him."West says in the statement that he gave Sparks a motion to dismiss the charges against White, based on the allegations of misconduct by Crum.After that, according to West's statement, White was offered a sentence of 30 days in jail and home confinement if he stopped talking to federal investigators and removed West as his attorney.The charge against Thornsbury alleges that, once West was removed as White's attorney, White gave a statement that he never gave prescription pills to Crum.White was sentenced to 1 to 15 years in jail after pleading guilty on April 12.
Thornsbury had scheduled a hearing for Thursday to reconsider White's sentence. The hearing was canceled, said a secretary in the office of John Cummings, the Cabell County senior status judge assigned to take over Thornsbury's cases. Cummings was reviewing White's file, the secretary said.Sparks "has neither disqualified himself as the Prosecuting Attorney on [White's] case, nor has he sought the appointment of a special prosecutor," Cipoletti writes.Crum was shot to death in his police cruise in Williamson on April 3. Earlier this month, Sparks stepped down from the case dealing with Crum's murder, citing an "emerging conflict of interest." Kanawha County prosecutors were appointed this week to prosecute Tennis Maynard, who is accused of killing Crum.Reach Kate White at or 304-348-1723.   
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