CHARLESTON, W.Va. — During a brief federal arraignment hearing, West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry pleaded not guilty to yet another charge.
“As to the charges against you in the superseding indictment, how do you plead?” asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley.
“Not guilty,” Loughry said in a steady voice.
Loughry, already facing 22 federal charges, was hit with another on July 17.
That day, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced that the same grand jury that returned the original indictment against Loughry returned a superseding indictment with one more count.
The new indictment adds an obstruction of justice count on top of the existing wire and mail fraud, false statements and witness tampering offenses.
“It’s very disappointing that a former Chief Justice of the highest court in the State of West Virginia would engage in such egregious conduct,” Stuart stated as the additional charge was first announced.
“Obstruction of justice is one of the most serious of offenses and for that conduct to be conducted by a Supreme Court Justice is, frankly, just plain stupefying.”
It’s another charge that Loughry — the author of“Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid And Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia” — lied to federal investigators.
The new count charges that between Dec. 4, 2017, and May 24, 2018, Loughry “knowingly and corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct, and impede the due administration of justice — a pending federal grand jury investigation the existence of which Loughry was well aware,” according to the superseding indictment.
The superseding indictment alleges that Loughry obstructed justice by deflecting attention away from his own misconduct and blaming others for improperly using Supreme Court funds and property; creating a false narrative about when a Cass Gilbert desk was moved to his home and under whose direction; using invoices not related to the transfer of a leather couch and the Cass Gilbert desk to his home in 2013 to buttress the false narrative he created, and repeating the false narrative to a special agent of the FBI in an interview on March 2, 2018.
This afternoon, Loughry and his lawyer, John Carr, walked in the front door of the United States Courthouse in Charleston. Loughry said nothing as the two walked past media. Carr said there would be no comment.
Justice Loughry enters https://t.co/djKLqXz5iM
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) July 25, 2018
Loughry, dressed in a navy suit with a blue shirt and a pink tie, sat by himself on a wooden bench outside the federal courtroom, waiting for it to open and for the proceeding to begin.
Once inside, he was joined by Carr at a wooden table with a glass top, facing the magistrate judge who asked a series of questions to be assured Loughry was familiar with the new charge against him.
When Loughry sat, it was in a high-backed blue leather chair. He leaned slightly forward, often adjusting his shoulders as he listened to Tinsley.
Loughry remains free on $10,000 bond as he awaits trial.
Impeachment proceedings touched off by Loughry have been going on for the past several weeks in the House of Delegates. The Legislature is considering impeachment against the whole court — with the exception of Justice Menis Ketchum, who has resigned— because of a series of controversies, most involving Loughry.
West Virginia has reached this point after months of controversy involving the Supreme Court.
Scandals came to a head this summer when Loughry was first charged by the state Judicial Investigations Commission and then by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In each case, Loughry was accused not only of misusing state resources but, worse, lying about the acts to investigators.
He has been suspended from the Supreme Court.
It all started last September with news reports about lavish renovations of justices’ chambers: the $32,000 couch and $7,500 wooden inlaid floor in Justice Loughry’s office, a $500,000 office renovation and $28,000 rugs in Justice Robin Davis’s office, and a $130,000 upgrade of Justice Beth Walker’s chambers.
Loughry denied guiding his own renovations and matters got worse.
Controversy then erupted over Loughry’s possession at his home of an antique desk associated with famed architect Cass Gilbert from when the state Capitol was first built. He took it home in 2012 while he was still a law clerk.
Then another couch added fuel to the fire. Loughry was accused of taking home a leather couch that had belonged to Justice Joseph Albright.
Those allegations kicked off a series of investigations by the Legislative Auditor.
Loughry was officially indicted June 19.