UPDATE: Mingo official pleads guilty to extortion charge - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Mingo official pleads guilty to extortion charge

CHARLESTON (NEWS RELEASE) – Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden pleaded guilty today to a federal extortion charge, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced. Baisden admitted to demanding that a Mingo County tire store sell him tires for his personal car at a deeply discounted price available only for government vehicles. When the store insisted that Baisden pay the same price an ordinary citizen would, he cut off its county business, costing the store tens of thousands of dollars since 2009.

"Elected officials have to play by the same rules as everyone else," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. "This defendant abused his power to shake down an honest business for special favors. It's brazen, ugly corruption. Old-fashioned graft like this destroys public confidence in government. Citizens deserve better."

Among Baisden's duties as county commissioner were serving as the county's purchasing agent. In that role, he had the power to decide where the county purchased a wide range of goods and services, including tires for county vehicles. Until 2009, when Baisden joined the county commission and became purchasing agent, Mingo County bought its tires from the Appalachian Tire location in Williamson. In June 2009, however, only months after taking office, Baisden ordered a county garage employee to get him a set of tires from Appalachian for his personal vehicle. Baisden demanded that the store give him the special government price, which included a steep discount not available to private citizens. He threatened to terminate the store's county business if it refused, and ultimately retaliated against Appalachian by moving the county's lucrative tire business elsewhere.

Baisden, 66, has been a member of the Mingo County Commission since 2009. Prior to his election as a county commissioner, he was Mingo County's assessor. Baisden's plea agreement with the Office of the U.S. Attorney requires him to resign from the county commission and never seek elective office again.

United States District Court Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr., presided over today's plea hearing and will sentence Baisden on January 14, 2014. Baisden faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, although non-binding federal sentencing guidelines call for a significantly lower sentence.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the West Virginia State Police are conducting the investigation. Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby and Assistant United States Attorney Haley Bunn are handling the prosecution.

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