CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After more than two days of deliberations, a federal jury found West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry guilty on 11 counts and not guilty on 10. The jury could not decide on the one remaining count.
The charges against 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,” accused him of mail fraud, wire fraud, tampering with a witness and lying to federal agents.
Loughry was stoic as the verdict was read and walked out of the federal courthouse in Charleston shortly after that without making any comment. Reporters asked if he will now resign from the state Supreme Court, but Loughry said nothing.
Sentencing for Loughry was scheduled for Jan. 16, 2019. He has 14 days to decide whether to file a motion for a new trial.
Federal prosecutors asked that Loughry be placed on home confinement with an electronic monitor, but the judge declined taking that step.
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) October 12, 2018
U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart and his team addressed reporters from the courthouse steps. Stuart praised jurors for carefully considering the facts of the case. He also said the outcome sends a strong message about public corruption.
“I have amazing respect and appreciation for the jury in this case,” Stuart said. “This was a difficult case, a highly emotional case and clearly the jury took its time, it deliberated, considered all the evidence.
“And I would think for anybody watching this case, 22 counts ultimately, 11 guilty, 10 not guilty, one undetermined — I think it really renders great faith in the jury system.”
Stuart said combating public corruption has been one of the top priorities of the U.S. Attorney’s office. “There is no small amount of public corruption,” he said.
He later said, “You’re supposed to be in this to be a servant to the public. The idea of taking advantage of your elected position, we have a long history in West Virginia that’s completely unacceptable in that regard.”
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) October 12, 2018
With Loughry being found guilty of 11 counts and fellow Justice Menis Ketchum pleading guilty to a separate wire fraud charge, two of West Virginia’s five Supreme Court justices now face significant federal penalties.
“First the guilty plea by Justice Ketchum and today’s guilty verdict on Justice Loughry are two important steps in this process,” Stuart said.
“Public service, where we find folks violate their oath of office, where they take advantage of their position, we’ll be there every day of the week and twice on Sunday if we find folks taking advantage of their position.”
The jury came down separate ways on some counts that were similar to each other.
Loughry was found guilty on Count 3, a mail fraud charge on accepting reimbursement for travel to Pound Civil Justice Institute when he actually drove a state vehicle there.
But he was found not guilty on Count 1, a wire fraud count accusing him of defrauding American University for mileage reimbursement when he actually drove a state vehicle there and Count 2, a mail fraud charge on the American University trip.
Similarly, the jury went back on forth on 14 wire charges that Loughry used a state vehicle and state-issued purchasing card for personal gain.
The indictment listed those counts as 4 through 18.
He was found guilty on counts 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 15 and 18.
He was found not guilty on counts 4, 7, 9, 13, 14, 16 and 17.
Count 8, which represented wire fraud on a $63.84 gasoline purchase at East End Exxon, Charleston, on Dec. 30, 2013, was the one where jurors couldn’t reach agreement.
He was found guilty of Count 20, which was a witness tampering allegation that Loughry tried to plant a false story with Supreme Court employee Kimberly Ellis about keeping down the cost of his office renovation. Ellis testified that she felt intimidated and had recorded the meeting.
The jury found Loughry not guilty of Count 21, which was a mail fraud allegation that he had made a Supreme Court spokeswoman email out a lie that justices were allowed to have home offices that would have included, in Loughry’s case, the antique “Cass Gilbert” desk.
Loughry was found guilty of Count 23, which was a false statement to a federal investigator about using a Supreme Court vehicle.
A clip of a federal investigator’s questioning of Loughry was also played for jurors during the trial. Loughry’s statement led to the charge.
And Loughry was found guilty of Count 25, which alleged that he had made a false statement about the “Cass Gilbert” desk while under questioning by federal investigators. That clip was also played for jurors.
Before the trial began, prosecutors dropped charges on counts 19, 22 and 24, which were all allegations about the “Cass Gilbert” desk.
The trial lasted more than a week. A full day of jury selection was required last Tuesday to find 12 jurors plus two alternates who expressed an open mind, despite a year of media attention on Loughry.
Over the course of the trial, prosecutors maintained Loughry is corrupt.
Loughry’s lawyer said the Supreme Court justice has been misinterpreted by political schemers.
Federal prosecutor Greg McVey, in closing arguments, began by describing Loughry’s election to the highest court in West Virginia.
“With that power came an arrogance, came an unbridled sense of entitlement, the likes of which the court had never seen,” McVey said.
He said that “entitled him to defraud others as he was cloaked in the power of his office.”
Loughry’s lawyer, John Carr, reminded jurors during closing statements that the burden is on the government to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.
“It isn’t ‘more likely.’ It isn’t ‘maybe.’ It is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’” Carr said. “The evidence in this case is not sufficient of that burden.”
Federal prosecutors called a range of witnesses — some to provide expertise on the travel records and cell tower data that composed the backbone of the case.
Others, like Ellis, court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy, former Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin and three court security personnel described not only the ins and outs of how the court functions, but also their interactions with Loughry.
Finally, the defense called Loughry himself, who wound up disputing almost everybody else’s testimony over the course of his own six hours on the witness stand.
A jury of 10 women and two men deliberated the 22 federal counts against Loughry.
The jurors were to consider each of the counts individually and were instructed to decide unanimously whether Loughry is guilty or not guilty on each.
“Each of you must consider the case for himself or herself,” Copenhaver told jurors. “Your sole interest is to seek the evidence in this case.”
Jurors began deliberating about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Copenhaver sent the jury home for the evening about 5 p.m.
The jurors then reconvened at 9:30 a.m. Thursday but they were released again at 5 p.m. with no verdict.
The jurors returned again at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Jurors sent out a note at midday Friday, saying they had a question about what would happen if they couldn’t decide on one of the counts. “Does that just affect that single verdict?” Judge Copenhaver said the jurors wrote on their note.
After calling in lawyers from both sides to discuss a response to the jury, Copenhaver sent back a note just to say yes, that only the one count would be affected but asking the jurors to try to reach a resolution.
The jury continued to deliberate then until about 3:45 p.m. Friday when Copenhaver called in Loughry, his lawyer and prosecutors to say a verdict had been reached on all counts but one.
Public 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.
The scandals started with WCHS-TV reports about the office renovation. Loughry, in those television reports, initially blamed fired Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury.
Loughry went to federal investigators with his concerns, prompting them to dig into Supreme Court finances.
Federal prosecutor Philip Wright told jurors during his opening statement last week that investigators initially set out to check Loughry’s claims, “but which swirled around and came back to him.”