CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A jury of 10 women and two men will hear the politically-charged case of suspended West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, who faces 25 federal charges.
Trial begins in earnest at 10 a.m. Wednesday for Loughry, the author of “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia.”
Controversy has surrounded Loughry for more than a year now as he faced allegation after allegation about the expensive remodeling of his office, his use of state vehicle for private travel and his moving an antique “Cass Gilbert” desk from the state Capitol to his home.
Loughry faces 25 federal charges accusing him of mail fraud, wire fraud, tampering with a witness and lying to federal agents.
Because of the mountain of media attention on Loughry, just selecting a jury was a significant challenge. Jury selection began at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the United States federal building in Charleston and continued until about 6 p.m.
Two pools of jurors were asked questions over the course of the day until they were narrowed to one pool. Many of the questions focused on media exposure.
When the final jury was selected, U.S. Judge John Copenhaver provided instructions meant to caution jurors about consuming both traditional media and social media over the coming days.
“During the trial you must not conduct any independent research on this case,” Copenhaver instructed.
He rattled off a list of information sources that the jurors should avoid, including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and YouTube. “It’s all out,” he said.
The judge roughly sketched out each day’s schedule for the jurors. Testimony will go until 1 p.m., then there will be a lunch break with testimony resuming at 2. Each day is expected to conclude about 5.
By the end of jury selection, all those who were selected had already put in a long, tedious day.
“I appreciate your staying this late,” Copenhaver told them. “Have a safe trip home.”
Loughry watched the jury selection from a table facing the judge. He wore a black suit, a blue shirt and a yellow tie.
As he and his attorney, John Carr, left the courthouse at day’s end, Loughry said nothing and Carr twice said “no comment” to television reporters.
Federal prosecutors have outlined plans to present evidence about Loughry’s use of state vehicles and a fuel card, about how the Code of Judicial Conduct might apply to the case and about the use of a Supreme Court video relevant to the history of ‘Cass Gilbert’ furniture.
“All of the evidence discussed above is important to the government’s case in chief, for each bit supplies a piece to the puzzle the United States must complete to establish defendant Loughry’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” prosecutors wrote.
A discovery disclosure by the government indicates prosecutors may introduce voice mail recordings from Loughry to federal investigators as well as text messages.
The West Virginia Broadcasters Association and its member radio and television stations filed a motion Tuesday to intervene for the limited purpose of requesting that the Court make audio and video recordings publicly available once they are introduced as evidence.