Mingo investigation digs deeper to include additional attorneys

Rachel Baldwin

October 15, 2013

CHARLESTON - In the wake of a federal investigation that has rocked Mingo County’s political core, news has been released that the WV Office of Disciplinary Counsel is now investigating three additional attorneys, two of whom served as assistant prosecutors for the county.

According to information confirmed by Rachel Fletcher Cipoletti, Chief Counsel for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, there is an investigation currently taking place that involves Matthew Chandler, Ron Rumora and Wesley White.

Chandler resigned from his part-time position with the prosecutor’s office prior to an emergency meeting held by the County Commission to name a temporary prosecutor to replace C. Michael Sparks, who resigned in lieu of reaching a plea agreement with the federal government. White also serves as a part-time prosecutor, primarily handling magistrate court cases. Rumora is a private attorney who operates an office in Williamson with his spouse, who is also a lawyer. Rumora previously served as the Prosecuting Attorney. The Disciplinary Counsel refused further comment on the details of the investigation.

Chandler resigned on Thursday, shortly before Teresa Maynard was appointed to serve as prosecuting attorney for a temporary term of 30 days by the county commission. Chandler and Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith work together at Smith’s private law firm, and the commissioner stated that fact played a big part in Chandler submitting his resignation.

“The reason Matt Chandler resigned as a part-time assistant prosecutor before the emergency meeting on Thursday was because he is an associate attorney in my private law practice. Since we are down to two commissioners, my vote was necessary to name a new prosecutor and both Matt and I decided it was best that he resign because we did not want there to be any appearance of impropriety,” stated Smith.

Smith remarked that he consulted with the Ethics Commission about the situation and felt that it would be a conflict for him to vote for a prosecutor who would then be Chandler’s employer. Smith’s vote was mandatory, since David Baisden had formally resigned from office after entering a guilty plea to extortion charges. A two-person quorum is needed for commission meetings. The commissioner would not comment as to whether references to Chandler in a federal indictment or the ongoing investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel had played a role in Chandler’s decision to resign but did say that he and his associate have both fully cooperated with federal investigators. Chandler declined comment at this time.

Although they are not specifically mentioned by name, Rumora and Chandler are referenced in two separate federal indictments against former Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, who has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to deprive a defendant of his rights.

Chandler was the attorney the indictment in the case of Robert Woodruff speaks of offering the defendant a plea agreement (confirmed by Sparks) that would have carried a 6 month jail sentence. Woodruff was the husband of Thornsbury’s secretary with whom he allegedly had an affair and had became obsessed with. Thornsbury concocted a scheme and enlisted the help of others to have Woodruff committed to jail for a crime he did not commit to open the door for his relationship with the wife to progress. The former judge and his partners in crime attempted to frame the defendant on three separate occasions for alleged possession of drugs, grand larceny and assault. The charges against Woodruff were eventually dismissed.

Rumora was the attorney that defendant George White hired after he fired Attorney Charles “Butch” West at the request of his brother and former Commissioner Baisden. White had arrested and indicted on drug related charges. White had gave statements to the FBI that he had sold prescription pills to the late Eugene Crum, while he was still serving as a magistrate, prior to running for the office of Sheriff. White was allegedly told that if he fired West and hired an attorney that was a political ally of the judge, he would receive a lighter prison sentence. The changing of attorney’s was a plot to prevent White from having further correspondence with federal investigators.

No definite reference to the details of the investigation of Wesley White have thus far been released. White, the nephew of House of Delegate Majority Leader Harry Keith White, serves as prosecutor in Mingo County Magistrate Court but still assists with Circuit Court cases as well.

With the resignation of Chandler, Prosecutor Maynard finds herself understaffed. She readily admitted that the office is a little behind but stated the the remaining assistant prosecutors have agreed to pick up the slack and lend a hand to get the caseload caught back up. Maynard and assistant prosecutors Justin Marcum and Glen Rutledge are not under investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.