Dem Judge in W.Va. Attempted to Frame Rival with Drug, Theft Charges; ABC, NBC Omit His Party Affiliation

Here's another name to add to the "name that party" file: Michael Thornsbury. The Mingo County, West Virginia circuit court judge was the subject of a federal indictment on Wednesday "after federal authorities allege he targeted his ex-lover's husband and used his position on the bench to manipulate criminal charges against the man," Kate White of the Charleston [W.V.] Gazette reported yesterday.

The Mountain State has partisan judicial elections and Thornsbury is a Democrat. Both ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today covered the bizarre story on their August 16 programs, but both neglected to mention Thornsbury's party affiliation.

For his part, the Wall Street Journal's Kris Maher also omitted Thornsbury's party affiliation, although he noted that Mingo County has an infamous history of political corruption (emphasis mine):

The indictment alleges that Judge Thornsbury tried to plant illegal drugs under the pickup truck of the secretary’s husband, whom the indictment identifies only as “R.W.,” some time after the judge’s secretary ended the alleged affair in June 2008, but that he couldn’t convince an associate to go through with the plan.

Then, the indictment alleges, the judge asked state troopers to arrest the man for thefts of scrap metal he didn’t commit, and in 2009 installed a business associate and county official as the foreman of a grand jury to issue subpoenas seeking documents that could be used to indict him. The plan ended after a company receiving one of the subpoenas revealed the ties between the judge and the foreman, the indictment says.

Judge Thornsbury also tried to use his influence to have his secretary’s husband imprisoned for six months after the man was the victim of a 2012 assault, the indictment alleges.


Mingo County, along the southern edge of the state bordering Kentucky, has a history of political corruption. In the 1980s, it gained notoriety when many low-level government officials were convicted of crimes from theft of public funds and bribery to jury tampering.

Legal experts, however, said they believed the indictment was unprecedented. “Obviously, this is just an indictment but what’s alleged is disturbing,” said Robert Bastress, a law professor at West Virginia University.

“We certainly have had corruption in the state and had judges act out of line, but a steady effort to try to undo somebody through the office of a circuit judge is pretty extraordinary,” he said.

Crime Media Bias Debate Bias by Omission Labeling Name That Party ABC Good Morning America NBC Today Wall Street Journal Kris Maher Michael Thornsbury