CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On West Virginia Day, federal investigators announced the indictment of the man who wrote the book on political corruption in the Mountain State.
Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was indicted on 22 counts, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced this morning. Stuart said that if Loughry were convicted on each of the counts, the sentence would amount to almost 400 years.
Loughry was picked up by federal officials at 7:30 a.m. today at his home. He had a short arraignment hearing at the federal courthouse and was released $10,000 bond.
He was charged by a federal grand jury. The 22-count indictment was unsealed today. The charges include fraud, false statement and witness tampering offenses.
Stuart, several times, noted that it’s West Virginia Day. He also talked about the responsibility of the judicial system to be fair brokers in American society.
“This is a solemn day for all West Virginians,” Stuart said. “On this day — West Virginia Day — the people of our great state deserve better. They have worked too hard and too long to tolerate misconduct that strikes at the heart of the public’s trust by elected officials.
“I intend to do all I can to ensure that our people have the honest government they deserve.”
US Attorney announcement on Supreme Court https://t.co/tpcFRR5dD0
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) June 20, 2018
Controversy has swirled around Loughry for months, and the former Chief Justice was hit earlier this month with a series of charges by the state Judicial Investigation Commission.
Early this month, the state Judicial Investigations Commission leveled charges that Loughry lied repeatedly — including the withholding of a federal subpoena from his fellow justices — and used his office for personal gain.
The Judicial Investigations Commission stacked up 32 charges against Loughry, the result of an investigation that began in February.
That aspect of trouble for Loughry is expected to go on hold while the federal charges are under consideration.
Loughry was suspended without pay by a panel of temporary Supreme Court justices led by Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit. The temporary justices withheld any decision about Loughry’s law license.
By the end of that week, the Governor, the Senate president, the House speaker and legislative Democrats all called on Loughry to step aside.
Democrats stepped up calls today to begin impeachment proceedings against Loughry.
When is @ArmsteadWV and his Republican Caucus going to commence impeachment proceedings against Justice Loughery???? No further delay!! Begin immediately.
— Tim Miley (@TimMileyWV) June 20, 2018
State law says any court vacancies are to be filled through an appointment by the governor. If the unexpired term is more than two years, there would be an election to fill the remainder of the term.
The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission helps the governor by meeting and submitting a list of two to five qualified people within 90 days of a vacancy. The governor then has 30 days upon receiving the list to make an appointment.
Controversy began last year after stories about pricey renovations at the Supreme Court, particularly the $363,000 design and renovation of Loughry’s office, including a $7,500 custom-made wooden medallion of the State of West Virginia built into the floor with his home county of Tucker in blue granite.
More 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. The legislative audit, which valued the desk at $42,000, briefly delved into the desk issue, concluding it was another example of using public office for private gain.
A Legislative Audit released in April concluded that Loughry and Justice Menis Ketchum drove state vehicles for personal use without properly claiming the perk as a taxable fringe benefit.
“The Legislative Auditor finds that the instances documented in this report, taken together with media reports, show a complete lack of regard for the principles of fiscal prudence and responsibility,” auditors wrote in the report.
Ketchum had his W-2 forms retroactively updated to reflect that, the audit stated. Ketchum also repaid the state $1,663.81 for incorrect travel expenses.
Loughry submitted a memo disputing the results of the audit.
Before his election to the Supreme Court in 2012, Loughry was perhaps best known for his political ethics book “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia.”
Loughry, a 47-year-old Tucker County native, served as chief justice starting in 2017. It was to be an unprecedented four-year term, but the other justices voted him out of that position in early 2018 during continued controversy over Supreme Court spending.
For most of the decade before his election to the Supreme Court, Loughry had served as a law clerk for justices, including current Chief Justice Margaret Workman.
He also served for seven years as a senior assistant attorney general in the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.