Charges brought against Mingo Co. magistrate, prosecutor

Oct 9, 2013

Federal informations released Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office charge former Mingo County Chief Magistrate Dallas Toler and Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks in separate cases. They are the latest charges in a string of federal indictments in Mingo County, recently leading to guilty pleas from a circuit judge and county commissioner.

Toler resigned from his post early Wednesday via a letter to West Virginia Supreme Court Administrative Director Steven Canterbury.  He became a magistrate  in January 2012 after Eugene Crum resigned to focus on his election campaign for sheriff. Crum was fatally shot in April, three months after he took office.

Officials from the West Virginia Supreme Court confirmed Toler’s resignation Wednesday afternoon. They said Toler gave no particular reason for his sudden departure in the letter. Toler's office also confirmed his resignation.

However, the reasons behind Toler's resignation quickly became apparent as the federal information charges were released by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office the same day.

Goodwin said Toler was charged with illegally registering a felon to vote in 2012.

"Magistrate Toler has been charged with an election law matter and it involves willfully depriving the residents of the state of West Virginia of a fair and impartial election process," said Goodwin by phone.

"He did so by procuring a voter registration application that he knew to be materially false and fictitious."

In a separate case, Sparks was charged Wednesday in a scheme to protect the reputation of Sheriff Eugene Crum from revelations that Crum had bought drugs from a campaign sign-maker.

Former Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury pleaded guilty last week to his involvement in the same scheme. Sparks had been named in the indictment of Thornsbury for these charges, although formal charges were not brought against Sparks until Wednesday.

Thornsbury had also been charged with violating a Mingo County man’s Constitutional rights over a plot to plant drugs on a romantic rival. As a part of a plea agreement with the federal prosecutor, the charges in that case will be dismissed. He resigned from his post last week and consented to disbarment by the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Goodwin said Wednesday’s information charges signal that both Toler and Sparks are cooperating with investigators and prosecutors.

“That’s a charge used, generally, when individuals have agreed to plead guilty. Otherwise, they have a right to be charged by indictment under the Constitution,” explained Goodwin.  

In yet another unrelated case, Former County Commissioner David Baisden pleaded guilty to charges of extortion and resigned from his post Monday as part of a plea agreement.

Goodwin also said investigations into corruption in Mingo County aren't quite over.