Where would one begin in describing how justice works in Mingo County?
Back to the days that earned the county the title, “Bloody Mingo”? Even earlier?
When one considers Mingo justice, he or she has to consider the numerous federal investigations that have led to multiple convictions. We had the “mine wars.” We had a sheriff who sold his office with the concurrence of other county officials. We had a county commissioner who went to jail for a fraudulent tire deal.
On the court side, one prosecutor recently went to jail for participating in illegal schemes that were uncovered by a federal fraud investigation in 2013. A once all-controlling circuit judge remains incarcerated on federal charges from 2013 as well. Government papers say he worked with the State Trooper of the Year to frame a man whose wife he (the judge) was romantically involved with. The case of Judge Michael Thornsbury showed about as much malicious intent to persecute innocent people as has ever been witnessed in American history. If Thornsbury was only guilty of half of what the government alleged, his criminal intent is difficult to measure.
So, a prosecutor and a judge went to jail. Media outlets in Charleston and elsewhere declared that they had helped “clean up” Mingo County.
Where is the courtroom cleansing?
A newly-installed, crime-fighting sheriff took office in January 2013. When he came too close to the powers-that-be, he was shot like an animal on the main street of Williamson where he sat enjoying his lunch. The facts in the case have never been disclosed — although prosecutors from both Mingo and Kanawha and statewide law enforcement have looked at it for years now.
In May 2015, an 18-year-old was beaten into a permanent coma on the same street in Williamson. Virtually no prosecution has ever taken place, notwithstanding the fact that videos of the unprovoked beating are available.
Sheriff Eugene Crum was given an honorary burial but later came to be the subject of innuendo intended to disgrace him and lead suspicion in another direction. Dawson Isom, the 18-year-old, at least had a family and attorney who rejected then Prosecutor Teresa Maynard’s efforts to forever hide the files in the case.
Despite an overwhelming vote by the people of Mingo County to reject the do-less prosecutor in 2016, her successor, Jonathan “Duke” Jewell has done nothing to bring justice to Isom. The silence regarding the Crum shooting is deafening.
Now, Thornsbury’s replacement, Judge Miki Thompson, has acted as prosecutor and judge in revoking the home confinement of a man convicted in 2016. To Jewell’s credit, he at least refused to go along with Thompson’s apparent arbitrary decision to revoke home confinement in a drug case. No doubt, the previous prosecutor would have cooperated with the tyrannical judge.
Thompson revoked home confinement even though there was no apparent documentation to support her action. Jewell filed paperwork with the circuit court and the state supreme court saying he had no intention of moving for the home confinement suspension. The public defender appealed Thompson’s unilateral action to the supreme court. They refused to issue a show cause petition.
So, where is “justice” in Mingo? As it was a century ago, it is hard to find. Sheriff Crum, Isom Dawson and the revoked defendant Brandon White have clearly not received it. Among other things, Thompson kicked off her term as prosecutor by effectively attempting to “shake down” members of the Mingo bar to remodel her courtroom. After apparent direction from the supreme court led to her returning “contributions” and ceasing to request them, there have been other obvious departures from model judicial conduct.
When Maynard forgot to make a motion to seal the records in the Isom case, Thompson generally coached the prosecutor and made the motion herself. So, being judge AND prosecutor is not new for Thompson.
Justice is still a much-needed commodity in Mingo. Crum, Isom, White and dozens of others deserve it. By this time, it should be a reality not a goal.