How did they know about secret grand jury deliberations?

Last updated: August 20. 2013 9:18AM - 1173 Views
Ron Gregory ronjgregory@gmail.com

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Beware the Ides of August.

And beware newscasters and state senators who appear to know the inner workings of supposedly secret Federal grand juries.

With the indictments of Mingo County Judge Michael Thornsbury and County Commissioner David Baisden, one must wonder what crystal ball a reporter at WCHS-TV gazed into back in May when she reported that the pair were targets of the grand jury deliberations. Even earlier than that, at least one state senator told anyone who cared to listen that the grand jury would issue indictments in Mingo County “on August 15.”

When I asked U.S. Attorney Boothe Goodwin, hypothetically of course, if a state senator had predicted such a thing five months in advance “would it just have been a lucky guess?” he assured me that it would have been.

Of course, another court official pointed out to me that the indictments were actually returned August 14 and kept under seal until the next day. Amazing coincidence is all I can say.

State Republicans have been running from pillar to post for weeks talking about the “August indictments in Mingo.” They made it clear “Team Mingo” would be the target. How on earth did they know that’s when they would come? Need I repeat that grand jury deliberations are SECRET.

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I don’t for a minute believe Goodwin or anyone associated with his office would leak confidential information to anyone. Overall, Goodwin has been the best U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia in my memory. He vigorously prosecutes drug abuse and has prosecuted election law violations in Southern West Virginia like nobody else ever did.

Goodwin is a straight shooter, as are his associates. Likewise, I wouldn’t dream of thinking any Federal agent would tattle about grand juries. My best guess is that some witnesses from Mingo, who were called before the jury, put two and two together and came up with Thornsbury and Baisden. They then chatted to folks back home and the word spread like wildfire.

That’s my guess. But it still seems strange, especially when the state senator was so accurate in his prediction of the date. I’m not sure how any witness would have known the indictment day in advance. Maybe, as Goodwin said, it was just a lucky guess. If so, I have contacted that state senator to provide me with winning numbers in this week’s lottery drawing. I will soon be rich.

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Nearly all of my readers wanted to know if Judge Thornsbury was married at the time of his affair with his assistant, who I am not going to name although the Logan radio station did. She appears to be a victim here. They wondered, too, if he was married now. In answer to that, a friend of His Honor told me, “Absolutely. Michael and Dreama have been happily married for more than 30 years. Well, they WERE happily married for 30 years.”

The indictment of the judge reads like an old dime store novel, with sordid details of a romance gone sour. Apparently, the assistant decided to remain with her husband while forsaking the judge. Nothing is so ugly as a man scorned, it seems.

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I lost a married woman back to her husband a few years ago. I have to admit it is an emotional roller-coaster, although I never had the urge to plant drugs in the man’s truck. He, on the other hand, threatened to beat me up, which is something I have never understood. If HIS wife and I had an affair, shouldn’t it have been HER he was most angry with; not me?

Ah well. Maybe he planted illegal drugs in her truck.

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I continue to think the indictment of Baisden is about as silly as anything I have ever read. I won’t for a moment downplay the significance of violating the public trust by trying to force a vendor to sell him tires for his personal vehicle at government rates. But, I still wonder how this rises to the level of a FEDERAL grand jury indictment. It seems to me this is one that could have been handled down at the county magistrate level.

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Oh, wait a minute. The county magistrate level is IN the Mingo County courthouse, isn’t it? I retract my previous comment.

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Speaking of true confessions, I will include in my forthcoming book the various episodes of infidelity I have noticed between elected officials and others over the years. To be fair, I will also include my own personal indiscretions. It will be a real “show and tell” deal for all to read. There will likely be tear spots on the pages where I confess my sins of commission. No, there’s no set date for when the book will be available.

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But, ah yes, I will name real names and places.

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Remind me to make sure my personal libel insurance is up to date.

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The great political seer, Hoppy Kercheval, was delightedly dancing around the Mingo indictments before they came out last week. My guess is that Kercheval, as were the state Republicans, was disappointed that there was nothing more than a spicy love affair gone sour and some tires at discount prices. Surely that is the makings of a country song.”I was the Judge who judged my assistant a looker/ I decided to take her aside …” Okay, enough of that.

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In considering the indictment of the County Commissioner, I recall how former House of Delegates Speaker Lew McManus was absolutely one of the kindest, gentlest men I ever met. McManus, almost to a fault, never had a bad thing to say about anyone that I can recall.

One morning at our Charleston breakfast table, a number of lawyers and other professionals were discussing the latest news, as usual. The subject turned to State Senator Randy Schoonover of Clay County who had been accused of accepting a bribe of about $1,000 for his vote on some issue. The papers were full of details, including the fact that Schoonover would likely spend quite a period of time in the penitentiary (which he eventually did).

Finally, the comments turned to how ANYBODY would take a chance at going to jail for years for a piddly $1,000. “I can’t believe anybody is that stupid,” said Andy Payne, a banker who sat with us before his untimely death a few years later. Several chimed in with their agreement.

Finally, McManus cleared his throat and came as close to saying something negative as I ever heard. “I take it that none of you have met Randy Schoonover,” he said and returned to sipping his coffee.

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It is sad to watch someone so desperately in need of power that he or she will try to hold onto a government position he or she is clearly not entitled to. Case in point is Lincoln School Board member Gary McCallister, who insisted he had spoken with the state Ethics Commission and received the “green light” to be a School Board member and remain on the Lincoln PSD. After it was proven that wasn’t true, and he was faced with written decisions by the Ethics Commission forbidding his membership, McCallister reluctantly resigned from the PSD. One has a feeling this one may not be over yet, though.

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I’m sure my favorite bible-thumpers can defend the Tennessee judge who ordered a child’s name be changed from “Messiah” to “Martin” because “there was only one Messiah, Jesus Christ.” What lunacy on the right wing. Bible-thumpers would go insane if a liberal judge decided such a thing but there is little outrage at this one.

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The horrible tragedy of an Assistant Attorney General being charged with attempted murder after shooting up the inside of his Charleston home is just another example of the guns-gone-wild mentality of some. There is no way there should have been a gun in that household and the Second Amendment does not say it should have been there. Guns should be placed in a neat pile and blasted to oblivion. They cause tragedy after tragedy and very little good.

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Your comments, ideas, rumors and story ideas are always welcome. Use my email address listed or call my cell at 304-533-5185.

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