Former West Virginia Judge Is in the Soup
CHARLESTON, W. Va. (CN) - An ousted West Virginia judge slandered and maliciously fired a deputy clerk because she found out he was having an affair with a secretary and was afraid she would tell his wife, the former clerk claims in court.
Candice Harper sued Michael Thornsbury and other court officials, in Kanawha County Court.
During the relevant time, Thornsbury was the sole circuit judge of West Virginia's Thirtieth Judicial Circuit, a single-county circuit in Mingo County, Harper says in the lawsuit.
Thornsbury was indicted on conspiracy charges in August 2013, The Associated Press reported at the time. The AP reported that Thornsbury was accused of "commandeer(ing) the legal system in a years-long attempt to frame a romantic rival for crimes he didn't commit."
The state Supreme Court suspended Thornsbury and his law license and a replacement judge took over his cases, the AP reported.
Thornsbury pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to deprive a drug suspect of his constitutional rights, to block an investigation into the county sheriff, the West Virginia Gazette-Mail reported. A federal judge was expected to dismiss the charge that Thornsbury violated the rights of his secretary's husband in exchange for the guilty plea, the Gazette-Mail reported.
In her lawsuit, Harper, who is Thornsbury's niece, claims she was forced out of her job because of harassment from Thornsbury and co-defendant Jarrod Fletcher, who was Mingo County's director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and a close friend of Thornsbury.
"On or about spring 2009, plaintiffs discovered that Thornsbury was having a romantic affair with a woman in the Mingo County Probation Office, who later became his secretary," Harper says in the complaint.
"Defendant Thornsbury learned that plaintiff knew about his affair.
"Defendant Thornsbury had great fear that plaintiff would tell Thornsbury's wife about the affair.
"After defendant Thornsbury learned that plaintiff knew about his affair, plaintiff asserts that her relationship with defendant Thornsbury soured dramatically."
Harper claims, among other things, that her direct supervisor, nonparty Terry Sanders, began to question the amount of time she took off from work. She claims that during an investigation of this, "six (6) original time sheets were discovered to be missing from defendants Thornsbury's office."
She claims that Sanders told her later "that he was instructed by defendant Thornsbury to secretly document plaintiff's work time incorrectly in a deliberate attempt to have her wrongfully terminated."
She claims that Thornsbury and nonparty Mingo County Magistrate Eugene Crum then "conspired to force her out of her job."
She claims Crum "summoned" her to his office in August 2011 and "threatened (her) with criminal prosecution if she did not leave her job with the Mingo County Magistrate Clerk's Office and take a position with Magistrate Crum."
Nine months later, she claims, Thornsbury evicted her from an apartment she had been renting from him. She claims that defendant Fletcher, as director of 911 and homeland security, had the authority, and used it, to shut off her water.
She claims Thornsbury also falsely accused her of using her work computer to browse Facebook and Twitter, "even though she did not have an account with any of those social media websites at the time."
Finally, she claims, federal officials "began to investigate the wrongdoing of defendants Thornsbury and Fletcher, [and] they spoke with plaintiff."
Whereupon, she claims, "Thornsbury knowingly spread false rumors that plaintiff was having an affair with an FBI agent."
She claims that this nearly yearlong harassment and humiliation forced her to leave her job.
She seeks lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages for hostile work environment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious discharge and slander.
Thornsbury's sentencing was postponed from December 2013 until April, according to the AP and West Virginia news reports. Prosecutors asked for more time to investigate the assistance Thornsbury offered in a corruption probe.
Apparently, the sentencing has been postponed again.