CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry has been denied one of his two motions for a retrial, although a federal judge did grant an acquittal on a witness tampering charge.
U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver submitted the 35-page order Friday.
Loughry was convicted in October on 11 federal charges. His lawyer filed one motion for a retrial that is under seal. The second motion contended prosecutors were unable to prove their case, repeating many of the arguments that took place in the trial itself.
Copenhaver’s order applies specifically to the second motion, which was fairly standard, and makes no ruling on the first motion.
Copenhaver denied the justice’s motion for a retrial on eight mail fraud and wire fraud counts. Loughry was also convicted on two false statements counts but did not ask for a retrial on those.
The mail fraud counts charged Loughry with improperly seeking travel expense reimbursement for travel to a conference, even though he had used a state vehicle and a state-issued gasoline purchasing card.
The similar wire fraud counts charged Loughry with using a state vehicle and state-issued gasoline purchasing card for personal travel. Most of those trips were for signing events for Loughry’s book on political corruption in West Virginia.
Copenhaver wrote there was more than enough evidence for the jury to find Loughry guilty on those counts.
“Indeed,” the judge wrote, “the consistency with which the defendant engaged in these unlawful acts over a 15-month period establishes the pattern and practice of fraudulent conduct that enabled him to convert to his own use, by false pretenses, assets of the state of West Virginia.”
Copenhaver rejected Loughry’s contention that there was no Supreme Court rule explicitly prohibiting him from using the state vehicle for personal travel.
“Regardless of the existence of a policy so stating, charging one’s employer for personal expenses wrongs the employer of its property rights and, quite simply, constitutes theft,” Copenhaver wrote.
Copenhaver did find insufficient evidence to uphold the witness tampering charge, which was based on a conversation Loughry had with Supreme Court employee Kimberly Ellis. Ellis said earlier conversations with Loughry had been intimidating, and she construed his comments in a meeting as meant to coerce her to lie.
Loughry’s motion, filed by attorney John Carr, contended federal prosecutors were not able to prove mail fraud, wire fraud or witness tampering beyond a reasonable doub.
Many of the points made by Carr echoed Loughry’s defense during the six-day trial.
“Because the evidence introduced in this case is insufficient even in the light most favorable to the United States to sustain a conviction of the specified Counts, the Defendant respectfully requests that this Court enter a judgement of acquittal on these Counts, and Order a new trial on any remaining Counts,” Carr wrote.
A jury deliberated for two days before finding Loughry guilty of the 11 counts and not guilty on 10 more. The jury deadlocked on another.
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,” was still chief justice of the Supreme Court this time last year.
Public controversy enveloped Loughry 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 that investigators initially set out to check Loughry’s claims, “but which swirled around and came back to him.”
Sentencing for Loughry was scheduled for this Jan. 16.