Ron Gregory

September 23, 2013

“Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome rathes outgrabe.” (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872, by Lewis Carroll).

Well, THAT about sums things up in Mingo County, doesn’t it? Nothing that has been uncovered yet in the Mingo fiasco makes any more sense than the weird poetry heard by Alice beyond the Looking Glass.

Why, for example, would an apparently sane, veteran Circuit Court Judge appear to go absolutely berserk when a woman — ANY woman — bypassed him romantically? Why would that judge risk his years on the bench, his reputation and his retirement for that passing fantasy?

Why would a seemingly-experienced Prosecuting Attorney similarly risk everything to help cover up crime in his own bailiwick? Why would … well, the list goes on and on.

As we entered a new week in the continuing debacle known as the 2013 Mingo County Scandal (scandals are so common in Mingo, they must be identified by year to be clear which one we’re referring to. I, for one, favor identifying them with Roman numerals like the Super Bowl), the Prosecutor is facing disciplinary action from the state Supreme Court of Appeals; both Judge Michael Thornsbury and County Commissioner David Baisden have done a double-take and are now cooperating with the government regarding charges against them; the reputation of the late Sheriff Eugene Crum has sunk about as low as it can get; and the names of two House of Delegates members and a State Senator are figuring prominently in rumors about the on-going investigation by Federal authorities.

As I said last week, this story line has more plots than any made-for-TV movie you ever saw. How on earth did ANY jurisdiction, much less Mingo County, get into this sort of predicament? Perhaps years of neglect might explain it, but the Feds have been this way before.

As I offered in an analysis piece last week, you can bet the family farm that Thornsbury and Baisden have promised the government some “big fish to fry” in exchange for any cooperative agreement going on. Since it appeared clear the government had irrefutable evidence against both the Judge and the Commissioner, the government needed no confessions from either of them for conviction.

Looking the situation over, it appears the indicted pair decided to try to lessen their punishment by helping the government. In that case, again, it is obvious such “help” would be in the form of implicating higher ups in the alleged crimes going on here.

I noted earlier that I am not at all certain who the government would consider “bigger fish.” Still, I think if Thornsbury and/or Baisden can give the government a state official rather than local ones, that classifies as a “bigger fish.”

The mention of state legislators in connection with the investigation did not surface heavily until last week, making one wonder if it is those folks the Feds are now focused on. Of course, since “Team Mingo” operated a campaign organization that became intertwined with many in the political and governmental circle, it is possible the “big fish” is even bigger — such as a statewide official.

All of this, of course, is speculation but in our case here, it is educated speculation. The government’s way of getting guilty pleas from folks and the manner in which they tighten the noose on those they are after is legendary. In addition, the tactics do not change much. If the Feds are willing to work with an indicted witness, you can bet they believe they will receive more from the cons than the cons get from the government.

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George White, the infamous “G.W.” who is alleged to have been working with the Feds on the drug-related crimes in the county, has long been known as a politico who provides yard signs and such to many political candidates.

Now, I’m told, the authorities are wondering if his sign printing company could have been a key to laundering money in political campaigns. In other words, I suppose, a candidate would pay White for signs never delivered and he would divvy up the money to the appropriate parties. Rumors, as I have said, grow like wildfire in these situations. There might be nothing to the sign shop speculation — but, then again, there might be.

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When Baisden appeared in Federal court to enter his “not guilty” plea, the place was packed with folks offering him well-wishes. While that is not anything especially out of the ordinary, I was struck by how most of those in attendance appeared to believe Baisden was as “absolutely not guilty” as Thornsbury.

It is safe to say Baisden appears to be a friendly, neighborly sort and it is not difficult to see how he won elections. Still, one can only guess if some of those in the crowd now wonder why they drove all the way to Charleston to support him.

When the Feds said they had an audiotape that proved their case, there was little room left for folks to be patting Baisden on the arm and assuring him, “everything will be okay, Dave. We know you didn’t do it.”

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Speaking of comical comments, one politico told me last week, “By the time the Feds are done, there won’t be anybody left at the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church.”

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There is no point hiding the fact that one of those being prominently mentioned in the investigation is none other than Delegate Harry Keith White. White’s major connection to the crime sprees appears to be his role at the Bank of Mingo. For his part, White denies any knowledge of any wrongdoing by anyone, including bank officials.

One does wonder if the widespread speculation about White contributed to his inability to hold votes together to be elected Speaker when Rick Thompson resigned. One day, it looked like White had the position locked up and the next he was down to eight or nine votes.

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On the subject of the Prosecutor, there was also late-week speculation that Michael Sparks is attempting to deal with the Federal government and that is why his law license was not revoked on Friday. It appeared from every word out of the capitol and the Supreme Court chambers on Thursday that Sparks would be disbarred on Friday. But by Friday morning, that tune had changed some.

As the week ended, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said she had “no idea” what time frame the court had in mind for action on Sparks. This came a day after local TV stations reported the revocation would come Friday, according to reliable sources.

If, in fact, Sparks is also helping drive nails into previously-unnailed coffins, the Supremes may wait a bit to taken any action at all, most speculate.

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As always, I welcome your comments, thoughts, rumors and story ideas. Email at the address listed or call on my cell, 304-533-5185. Incidentally, on that subject, I have been inundated with so many calls since the scandal broke that I am having trouble returning all messages. If you called earlier and did not hear back from me, give me another ring please.