Legal Ethics

Lawyer disciplinary board seeks immediate suspension of county prosecutor's license

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Lawyer disciplinary authorities in West Virginia have moved to immediately suspend the license of Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks, saying they have proof that he admitted involvement in a criminal conspiracy by a suspended judge to violate a man’s constitutional rights.

The petition (PDF), filed Wednesday with the West Virginia Supreme Court by the Office of Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel, is based on information contained in a sealed order from federal prosecutors that says Sparks has admitted to the FBI his “knowledge and involvement” in the alleged conspiracies outlined in the indictment against the judge, the Charleston Gazette reports.

Suspended Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury has been indicted on federal charges that he conspired to violate the constitutional rights of the husband of his former secretary with whom he was having an affair, by, among other things, having illegal drugs planted in the man’s pickup and having him arrested for thefts he didn’t commit.

The indictment against Thornsbury also says the judge conspired with several other elected officials, including Sparks, to thwart a a federal investigation into allegations that a former county sheriff illegally received prescription pain killers from a convicted drug dealer.

Sparks has previously denied any wrongdoing. In a response to the state disciplinary counsel’s petition, his lawyer asked the supreme court not to suspend Sparks without first holding a hearing on the matter.

“We want this case to go forward like a normal ethics case,” Sparks’ lawyer, Lonnie Simmons, told the newspaper. “It’s an unusual thing they’re tying to do, which is essentially trying to suspend his license up-front without a hearing.”

The supreme court will hear arguments in the case Oct. 16.

Prior coverage: “Judge to take plea in case linked to slain sheriff, US Attorney says; removal of prosecutor sought” “Should county prosecutor have done more to rein in now-indicted judge?”

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