Mingo commission appoints assistant prosecutor to Sparks' post

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mingo commissioners appointed the county's only full-time assistant prosecutor to head the office for now after accepting the resignation of prosecuting attorney Michael Sparks on Thursday.Sparks resigned after federal prosecutors charged him Wednesday with depriving a man of his constitutional rights.Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court appointed two senior status magistrates to take over for Mingo Chief Magistrate Dallas "Big Dal" Toler, who also resigned Wednesday before being charged by federal prosecutors.Teresa Maynard, who has been in her role as assistant prosecutor since 2005, will take over for Sparks, commissioners said during an emergency meeting Thursday.
Maynard will serve in the position for 30 days until commissioners can name a permanent replacement. She would be eligible to fill that role as well. Sparks, the county's prosecutor since 2005, is charged with one count of deprivation of rights under the color of law. He faces a maximum of one year in prison.His attorney said his plea agreement with prosecutors would require him to give up his law license for at least five years. Rachael Cipoletti, chief attorney with the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel, said she filed a petition with the state Supreme Court on Thursday, accepting his consent to disbarment. Federal authorities said Sparks deprived George White of his rights while trying to cover up allegations that Mingo County's late sheriff, Eugene Crum, illegally received prescription painkillers from White.Former Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury pleaded guilty to his part in the alleged scheme last week.Federal prosecutors charged Toler with a voter-registration fraud charge. He is accused of illegally submitting a voter registration application in the name of a convicted felon who he knew was on probation at the time.State Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin temporarily appointed senior status magistrates, Joey Kohari, of Mingo County, and Kim Blair, of Putnam County, to take over for Toler.
Normally, the county's chief circuit judge would decide a new magistrate. Mingo is a single judge circuit.The Supreme Court previously appointed John Cummings, a senior status judge from Cabell County, and Thomas McHugh, a retired Supreme Court justice, to replace Thornsbury until a permanent replacement is chosen.Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury said Thursday that the court had decided Cummings and McHugh could chose a permanent replacement. Still, the judges will not do so."The legal opinion that was rendered shows indeed the appointed senior status judges in Mingo can make permanent appointments. However, they have chosen not to do so," Canterbury said. "They aren't from Mingo and, as a result, they really don't know the pool of applicants and don't feel they could make the best informed decision."
Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163. Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.    
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