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Drug dealer at center of Mingo case wants out of prison

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A drug dealer who was allegedly deprived of his rights by Mingo County officials wants out of prison until a judge decides whether to reconsider his case.

George White's attorney, Ronald Rumora, filed a motion in Mingo Circuit Court earlier this month asking a judge to release White from Huttonsville Correctional Center until the court hears a habeas corpus petition White plans to file.

In May, former Mingo circuit judge Michael Thornsbury sentenced White, 65, of Delbarton, to one to 15 years in prison on drug charges.

Federal prosecutors say that, rather than pay White for campaign signs, former Mingo sheriff Eugene Crum sent an undercover officer to buy drugs from White, and then had White arrested. White then began talking to federal agents about giving prescription pills to Crum, according to prosecutors.

When Crum found out, he allegedly approached other officials -- including former prosecutor Michael Sparks and former county commissioner David Baisden -- who devised a scheme to keep White quiet. Federal prosecutors say Sparks and others told White's brother that, if White switched lawyers to one favored by them and stopped talking to federal investigators, he would get a lighter sentence.

White then switched lawyers from Charles "Butch" West to Rumora. In June, White asked Thornsbury to reconsider his sentence and a hearing was set for Sept. 26. But before that could happen, Thornsbury was charged with conspiring to deprive White of his constitutional rights. The judge pleaded guilty to the federal charge earlier this month.

Sparks, who resigned as Mingo County's prosecuting attorney after being charged with depriving White of his constitutional rights, is expected to plead guilty on Nov. 18.

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph, who was appointed as a special prosecutor in White's case, said he hasn't had a chance to review it.

"I've certainly got to look at the file before I make any judgment about what our position will be on the motion," Randolph said this week.

Sparks asked for a special prosecutor in White's case before he resigned, but after the alleged scheme to thwart the investigation into Crum was made public.

White declined to be interviewed and directed phone calls to Rumora, an employee at the Huttonsville prison said. Rumora has not returned repeated phone calls from the Gazette.

Although federal prosecutors in the alleged scheme didn't mention his name, the State Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel is investigating Rumora. Rachael Cipoletti, chief attorney for the ODC, won't say for what.

In his motion to get White out of jail, Rumora cites the 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision United States v. Gonzales-Lopez, which states that wrongly depriving a defendant of his attorney of choice means his conviction can be reversed.

Besides West, Rumora is the only other attorney who has represented White on the charges, according to employees in the Mingo clerk's office.

Baisden pleaded guilty to a separate federal charge last month and resigned as county commissioner. Crum was shot to death in his police cruiser in Williamson in April.

After Thornsbury was charged in August, state Supreme Court justices appointed John Cummings, a senior status judge from Cabell County and Thomas McHugh, a retired Supreme Court justice, to assist him. Cummings has said he would rule on a motion to reconsider White's sentence without a hearing, but has not ruled yet.

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

 

 


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