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Sentencing delayed for ex-Mingo prosecutor

LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette file photo Michael Sparks leaves the federal courthouse in Charleston after pleading guilty to a federal charge. Sparks' sentencing, scheduled for this week, has been delayed until June.

The sentencing of former Mingo County prosecuting attorney Michael Sparks, which had been set for Thursday, has been pushed back until June.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston wrote Friday that he delayed the sentencing until June 16 “for reasons appearing to the court.”

Sparks pleaded guilty last year to one count of deprivation of rights under the color of law, a misdemeanor. He faces a maximum one year in prison and a fine up to $100,000.

This is the second time Sparks’ sentencing has been delayed. Earlier this year, his attorney requested the date be moved because of a scheduling conflict.

Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to give Sparks the maximum prison term for his part in a scheme to protect Mingo County’s late sheriff.

Based on Sparks’ pre-sentencing report, federal advisory guidelines would have called for a sentence between 27 and 33 months, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors previously said they plan to file a substantial-assistance motion because of Sparks’ cooperation.

Michael Thornsbury, Mingo’s former circuit judge, also admitted to participating in the plot to keep Delbarton resident George White from telling federal agents he gave prescription painkillers to former sheriff Eugene Crum.

Johnston delayed Thornsbury’s sentencing earlier this month for the second time until June “for reasons appearing to the court.” Thornsbury faces a maximum 10 years in jail for conspiring to deprive White of his constitutional rights, a felony.

In December, prosecutors asked Johnston to delay Thornsbury’s sentencing so they could further investigate information Thornsbury provided in a corruption probe. The information could make the ex-judge eligible for a lighter sentence, prosecutors previously wrote in court documents.

White owned a sign shop in Delbarton. Crum owed him about $3,000 for election campaign materials -- but instead of paying the bill, Crum had White arrested for selling drugs, federal prosecutors say. White, with the help of lawyer Charles “Butch” West, then began talking to federal agents about giving prescription pain medication to Crum, according to prosecutors. Then-Mingo County commissioner David Baisden and Crum told Sparks they would try to talk White into firing West, in order to keep them from talking. Baisden, according to the stipulation of facts Sparks pleaded guilty to, offered White a more favorable plea agreement if he fired West. After White did fire West, Sparks gave White the more favorable plea agreement.

Baisden was sentenced earlier this year to 20 months in federal prison on an unrelated extortion charge. Crum was shot to death in Williamson on April 3 of last year. White’s guilty plea was thrown out and the charges against him were dismissed earlier this year.

Reach Kate White at or 304-348-1723.

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