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Man at the center of Mingo corruption case released from prison

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The drug dealer at the center of the Mingo County corruption investigation was released from prison last week until a judge decides whether to reconsider his case.

George Reuben White, 65, of Delbarton, was released from Huttonsville Correctional Center on Friday after posting a $25,000 bail, according to an order signed by Circuit Judge John Cummings.

"Manifest injustice would occur if [White] remained incarcerated pending resolution of said habeas corpus proceeding," the order states.

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph, who was appointed as a special prosecutor in White's case, did not object to White's release, the order states.

In May, former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury sentenced White to one to 15 years in prison on drug charges.

Thornsbury pleaded guilty in federal court last month to conspiring to deprive White of his constitutional rights. Former Mingo prosecuting attorney Michael Sparks pleaded guilty Monday to depriving White of his constitutional rights.

Cummings, a retired senior status judge from Cabell County, was appointed to fill Thornsbury's position until the governor appoints someone to fill the remainder of Thornsbury's term.

Federal prosecutors say that, rather than pay White for campaign signs, former Mingo County 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 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 Ron 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.

Rumora, a former Mingo County prosecuting attorney, filed the habeas corpus petition for White on Oct. 31, according to an employee in the Mingo County Circuit Clerk's office. The petition wasn't immediately available Monday. However, in a separate motion asking that White be released from 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.

White has declined to talk to the Gazette and referred questions to Rumora, who won't return phone calls.

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.

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

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


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