I experienced one of those seventh days last week. The words “Two Mingo officials indicted by grand jury” lured me in. The name “Mingo” gets me every time. I spent my elementary school years in Williamson.
A circuit court judge named Thornsbury — Michael Thornsbury — is about to undergo a role reversal. He’ll get a view of the courtroom from below the bench when he goes on trial Oct. 15 for two counts of conspiracy.This is yet another blow to an area that, for years, has tried to escape its Hatfield and McCoys, “Bloody Mingo” reputation.
The now suspended judge is accused of plotting the undoing of his secretary’s husband. By the way, he and his secretary, Kim Woodruff, had been carrying on an affair.
She broke it off, and Thornsbury went to work on eliminating his competition. According to the indictment, the judge tried to plant drugs on Robert Woodruff’s car and, later, coerced a state trooper to file a false complaint for larceny.Thornsbury even placed his pal and business partner, Jarrod Fletcher, in charge of the grand jury to gather information on Woodruff through illegal subpoenas. Never mind that it’s against state law for an officeholder to serve on a grand jury. Fletcher is Mingo County’s director of Homeland Security.
I kept thinking I’d heard this story before. And I had. It’s all there in 2 Samuel: 11 and 12 — in this popular book called the Bible. Did the gallivanting judge learn nothing from King David?
David had the same kind of tunnel vision when it came to lusting after Bathsheba. His throne took a hit after he traipsed around with Uriah’s wife. Poor Uriah. He didn’t fare near as well as Woodruff.
The judge’s schemes took place between 2008-2012. Robert Woodruff probably wondered what he’d done to bring on such a stretch of bad luck. I imagine he was as shocked as he was relieved to discover someone had been framing him all along.
Like David before Bathsheba, Thornsbury — before Kim — lived a comfortable lifestyle by most people’s standards. The former assistant Mingo County prosecutor has served as a circuit judge since 1997. There is a woman who calls him “husband” and kids who call him “dad.” He has friends. Most have expressed their shock and disbelief.The real victims of Thornbury’s alleged actions are the good citizens of Mingo County. And there are plenty of them. Hardworking people who are proud of their roots.
They wage a daily battle to overcome their county’s stereotype only to wake to gut-punching headlines. All West Virginians — at one time or another — have waged similar wars.The people of Mingo County gave me the gift of a magical childhood — one, if given the chance, I’d live all over again. An individual’s actions should never define an entire county — or state.