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New Mingo prosecutor wants a clean slate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- New Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Teresa Maynard said Friday she didn't know anything about the alleged scheme that cost her former boss his job.

Maynard was appointed by county commissioners to take over as Mingo County prosecuting attorney Thursday, after Michael Sparks resigned. One day before, federal prosecutors charged Sparks with depriving a man of his constitutional rights, as part of a scheme to shield the county's former sheriff from federal investigators.

Maynard, 43, has worked as an assistant prosecutor in Mingo since 2005, the same year Sparks became prosecutor. She said Friday she just agreed to a 30-day appointment, and hasn't decided whether she'll apply for the full position.

"I think I can ask for people's trust all day long and, under the current circumstances, that really doesn't make a difference -- I think people are going to have to see they can trust me," Maynard said in a telephone interview with the Saturday Gazette-Mail.

Federal authorities say 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.

Sparks has agreed to plead guilty and give up his law license for five years, his attorney has said. The state Supreme Court accepted his disbarment Friday.

Former Mingo circuit judge Michael Thornsbury pleaded guilty to his part in the scheme last week.

"If your question is whether I had any involvement with the George White case, the answer to that is no," Maynard said. "If you're asking whether I had any knowledge of the circumstances alleged in regards to Mr. Sparks or former judge Thornsbury, the answer to that is also no."

In August, Sparks was mentioned in an indictment that charged Thornsbury with conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of his former secretary's husband by trying to land him in jail. That charge against Thornsbury -- which said that Sparks knew at least some of what Thornsbury was allegedly plotting -- will be dropped if a judge accepts Thornsbury's plea agreement.

Sparks has said before that he never took part in Thornsbury's alleged scheme against Robert Woodruff, the ex-secretary's husband.

Attorneys are required to report judicial misconduct, according to the State Bar's rules of professional conduct for lawyers. Sparks blamed an "intimidating environment" for not reporting the judge.

"I never felt intimidated; however, I was in a different position than Mr. Sparks," Maynard said Friday. "He was elected I was not. My role was to go into the courtroom and handle, primarily, abuse and neglect cases, and juvenile matters and some felony indictments as well."

Maynard, who got her law degree from West Virginia University, worked for Thornsbury when he was a lawyer in Williamson, before he became judge in 1997.

"I worked for Michael Thornsbury when I graduated from law school in 1995 until he took the bench and then I opened my own practice," she said.  "A lot of attorneys in town started there.

"I knew him as mostly in his capacity as a judge, we were not friends in the social sense and I was never really in a social situation with him," she said.

Maynard said that Matthew Chandler, a part-time assistant Mingo County prosecutor, resigned Friday. She didn't say why.

Chandler testified before the grand jury that indicted Thornsbury, according to court documents.

"We're down, we went from an office of six to four and I don't want to make any personnel changes in the next 30 days since I don't know if I'll be here beyond that," Maynard said.

Maynard said she's not related to either Elliott "Spike" Maynard, a former Mingo County circuit judge and state Supreme Court justice, or Tennis Melvin Maynard, the man accused of killing Mingo Sheriff Eugene Crum in downtown Williamson in April. Under Sparks, the Mingo prosecutor's office was removed from Tennis Maynard's trial.

Teresa Maynard said she thought hard before accepting the prosecutor's job, even temporarily, during the ongoing investigation by federal prosecutors into county corruption.

There have been four Mingo County officials charged by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office since Aug. 15. Besides Sparks and Thornsbury, David Baisden pleaded guilty to attempted extortion and resigned as a county commissioner last week, and Dallas Toler resigned as magistrate after he was charged with voter registration fraud on Wednesday. Toler will plead guilty, Goodwin said.

"I take the judicial system very seriously and it has been agony for me to see it made such a joke of, to be quite honest," Maynard said. "I'm really appalled, but I'm hopeful we can get back on the right track."

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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