CHARLESTON – According to information provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charleston, Mingo County Commissioner David L. Baisden has agreed to plead guilty to extortion charges.
Federal prosecutors filed a motion on Wednesday in U.S. District Court requesting a plea hearing for Baisden. Judge John Copenhaver didn’t immediately set a hearing date. Baisden had been scheduled to go to trial on October 21st.
Baisden, age 66, has served as a commissioner for approximately 6 years, having first been elected to that office in 2008, and again in 2012. He served as Mingo County Assessor for several years before becoming a candidate for commission.
Baisden is accused of trying to buy tires for his personal vehicle at a government discount, then terminating the county’s contract with Appalachian Tire when the company refused to cooperate and transferred the county’s business to Mike’s Tires.
Baisden stepped down from the position of purchasing agent after being indicted and arrested on August 15th on the extortion charges, but has not resigned as commissioner.
During a phone interview with the Williamson Daily News, Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith stated that he was not aware that Baisden had agreed to a plea, but explained in detail the steps that would be taken to name a new commissioner if and when he resigns from office.
“First of all, let me say that contrary to belief, John Mark (Hubbard) and I do not have the power to remove any of our elected officials from office. There are three ways in which that can be done; they can be beat in an election, resign from office or be ousted,” explained Smith.
“If Dave does resign, we will take applications for his commission seat in the same way that we conducted the naming of a new sheriff. After giving a set amount of time for interested parties to apply, we would interview the candidates and then make a decision.”
According to Smith, a person must be of the same political party of the former office holder and in Baisden’s case that would mean you must be a member of the Democratic Party to apply. You must also live in a district within Mingo County that does not include the locations of the remaining two commissioners’, with those being the Tug River (Smith) and the Williamson District (Hubbard).
In an exclusive interview with the Williamson Daily News, Baisden stated that he has agreed to a plea, but has not been notified of a date for the hearing. He read to us Paragraph 6 of his plea agreement that states the following:
“Mr. Baisden agrees that on or before the date he is sentenced, he will resign from his seat on the county commission.”
This means that Baisden does not have to immediately resign and that legally, he may retain his position as a county commissioner until his sentencing date takes place. When asked if that is he plans to do, Baisden replied, “Yes it is.”
“Although I pleaded guilty to the extortion charges, I want the public to know that I never received those tires,” Baisden stressed.
Additional information regarding this ongoing process will be published in a future addition of the Williamson Daily News as soon as it is released.