CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The investigation into the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals by the office of United States Attorney Mike Stuart is over.
Stuart released a statement on Thursday and spoke with MetroNews about the importance for the public to be able to move on with confidence in that court.
“It’s an unusual thing for any federal agency to issue a statement of conclusion, it almost never happens,” Stuart said to MetroNews.
“In this particular case, I thought it was important to say to the people of West Virginia you can have confidence in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. It’s important you can have confidence in it because it renders such important judgments on so many important issues that affect everybody in this state.”
In the statement release, Stuart said, “Our long-term investigation into corruption of West Virginia’s highest court is now concluded. Absent new information or new allegations of impropriety or illegality, based on the information we have investigated and reviewed, we are hopeful that the period of uncertainty and taint of West Virginian’s highest court is over. This does not mean there will not be another investigation regarding other issues at some point in the future, but, for now, we are finished with our work.”
As part of the investigation, former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry will report to prison on April 5. He was sentenced to 24 months behind bars and order to pay restitution to the State of West Virginia and the Pound Civil Justice Institute.
In October 2018, Loughry was convicted of one count of mail fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and two counts of lying to the FBI.
Stuart said he takes no personal pleasure in such investigations.
“I know sometimes it is hard for folks to understand that I am not keeping track of my belt of the prosecutions that we have in this office,” he said. “We have an important duty to serve the public and make sure the public understands that their government is honest.
“In this particular case, when you look at the abuses of the Supreme Court, when you look at what I call the arrogance of power and folks forgetting of why they were there, I think we served an important role in being able to bring that court to a new future. Hopefully, a future that includes the important work of that court without it being called into question for the other activities that are happening there.”
Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum was sentenced earlier in March to three years of probation after pleading guilty to wire fraud in August 2018 and former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis retired from the court in August after being impeached.
The investigation into spending in court garnered much attention around the state and nation.
“Our work resulted in the prosecution of two former Supreme Court Justices and the resignation of a third,” Stuart said. “I think it was the story that really consumed the imaginations of the public.
“For much of a year, if not longer, it took a remarkable amount of resources, a lot of hard work, late nights and weekends but ultimately we held Justices Loughry and Ketchum responsible for their abuse of the public trust.”
Stuart wanted to make sure that citizens realize his office is not in the business of addressing ethical or moral deficiencies.
“There were clearly moral and ethical failings with respect to the way the court was operating, the way justices were operating,” he said. “This includes those who we have convicted and those who we did not. We are not the ethical police and that is not what you want your U.S. attorney to be.”
In his released statement, Stuart thanked the FBI, the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division for their work in conducting the investigations and the Assistant United States Attorneys Phil Wright and Greg McVey and former Assistant United States Attorney Anna Forbes their work in the prosecutions.