ST. CHARLES, Mo. (CN) – A state disciplinary panel recommended a reprimand for a St. Charles County judge who requested a signed baseball by football star Terry Bradshaw in exchange for a lighter sentence when he worked as a prosecutor. The panel suggested that Associate Circuit Judge Matthew Thornhill be reprimanded for negligence when he was a prosecutor. The Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold the recommendation.
This is what happened, according to documents:
Thornhill wrote a letter in 2005 to Brian Zink, an attorney representing Mary Hart, recommending 6 years in prison if she pleaded guilty to forgery charges. Zink said Hart refused the offer, and told Thornhill that she had helped the St. Charles County Regional Drug Task Force and that her godfather was Bradshaw.
Thornhill allegedly told Zink that if Hart could produce a baseball signed by Bradshaw, and the task force supported a lesser sentence, then he would reduce the charges to misdemeanors. Several weeks later, Zink called Thornton to say he had the autographed ball, which turned out to be a forgery.
Thornton told Zink that he didn’t want the ball and emphasized that he reduced the charges based on the task force’s recommendation. When Thornton learned that the FBI had begun an investigation, Thornton told another lawyer in Zink’s firm that the offer was withdrawn and he transferred the case to another assistant prosecutor. The charges against Hart were eventually dropped because the victim would not cooperate with prosecutors.
The disciplinary panel found that Thornton has shown remorse and has built a solid professional reputation.
News of the autograph plea broke shortly after Thornhill was elected judge in November 2006. St. Charles County Prosecutor Jack Banas told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he would continue to disqualify Thornhill as judge in any criminal case. Zink and another lawyer, David Dalton II, agreed to stop practicing law for a year for their part in the matter.