- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. (AP) - A judge on Monday dismissed drug charges against a central figure in a federal corruption investigation in Mingo County.

Circuit Judge John Cummings granted a motion to dismiss the state charges against George White of Delbarton without prejudice, which means the charges can’t be filed again, media outlets reported.

“With no reluctance whatsoever, because our system demands fair trials, I’m going to grant the motion to dismiss filed by the state,” Cummings said.

White had pleaded guilty in April 2013 to delivery of oxycodone and possession of oxycodone and morphine with an attempt to deliver. He was sentenced in May 2013 to one to 15 years in prison. Cummings later vacated the plea and ordered a new trial.

Boone County prosecutor Keith Randolph, who served as special prosecutor in the case, said he requested the charges’ dismissal because of problems with evidence and other issues.

An audiotape apparently recorded by a confidential informant during the alleged drug buy was inaudible and there was no video recording. Prosecutors did not have any information about the informant, including his identity, background and motivation, Randolph told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

He also said he believed a warrant obtained to search White’s property was not viable because it was signed by former Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury. Thornsbury had pleaded guilty in October 2013 to federal charges of conspiring to deprive White of his constitutional rights.

“We just tried to do what’s right, given what we had before us,” Randolph said.

Federal prosecutors say Thornsbury, former Mingo County prosecutor Michael Sparks and former Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden had cooked up a scheme to keep White from talking to the FBI about the late Sheriff Eugene Crum. White was told that if he switched lawyers and pleaded guilty, he would receive a lighter sentence from Thornsbury.

Federal prosecutors say Crum had White, who is a sign maker, arrested in early 2013 instead of paying $3,000 he owed for campaign signs made by White. White then went to federal agents and told them he provided Crum with pills.

Sparks pleaded guilty in November 2013 to depriving White of his constitutional rights. He and Thornsbury both resigned as part of plea deals and are awaiting sentencing.

Baisden was sentenced in January to more than a year and a half in prison on an unrelated extortion charge. He pleaded guilty in October 2013 to trying to buy tires for his personal vehicle at a government discount in 2009, then terminating the county’s contract with Appalachian Tire when it refused to cooperate.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette, https://www.wvgazette.com

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