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Loughry sentenced to 2 years in federal prison

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was sentenced to spend two years in federal prison Wednesday after being convicted last October on multiple mail fraud and wire fraud felony criminal counts.

Loughry will self-report to a yet-to-be determined prison site by 2 p.m. April 5. He asked U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver to recommend he be placed as close to Berkeley Springs as possible.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart spoke with reporters after Wednesdays hearing.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Loughry’s conviction carried a sentence ranging from 10 to 16 months behind bars but Copenhaver enhanced the penalty by three levels to 24 months calling it a sentence “out of respect for the law.”

Loughry was convicted on 11 of 21 criminal counts. He used his position as a justice on the state Supreme Court for personal gain. The crimes included using a state vehicle on personal trips and being reimbursed with state money for those trips. Judge Copenhaver acquitted him of a witness tampering conviction in a post-trial ruling.

Loughry was also named in a 32-count statement of charges by the state Judicial Investigation Commission for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct. His attorney said Wednesday Loughry has already signed an agreement to give up his law license and never run for public office again. A hearing is scheduled for next week.

Loughry told Copenhaver Wednesday he was “fully aware” of the seriousness of his actions and the impact it’s had on himself, his wife and 12-year-old son.

“I do not want to minimalize or trivialize what happened. I want to begin the long process of putting the pieces of my life back together, including getting a job and becoming a productive member of society. This has changed my life and my family forever,” Loughry said.

He added he needed to begin working in order to provide health insurance coverage for his family.

Before handing down the sentence, Copenhaver told Loughry he appeared to be a devoted husband and father and his Supreme Court opinions were not questioned but for a 15-month period his actions were.

“Then came the attempt to cover up (what happened.) With the exception of your statement today, I have not seen evidence of remorse. You alone are not responsible (for what happened at the Supreme Court) but your conduct has contributed mightily,” Copenhaver said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Wright told Copenhaver Loughry was at the “apex of the judicial system” as Supreme Court justice.

“His damage can’t be measured in dollars and cents but the damage to the Supreme Court and the state is perhaps immeasurable,” Wright told the court.

Loughry’s attorney John Carr asked for probation to be served on home confinement.

Copenhaver partly enhanced the sentence under an obstruction of justice provision. Testimony during Wednesday’s hearing showed Loughry lied seven times during his two days of trial testimony including comments about the Cass Gilbert Desk in his house, mileage for trips taken in a state vehicle, his trip destinations and comments about not using the state vehicle for personal trips.

Delegates measured the infamous $32,000 couch in Loughry’s office during last year’s impeachment proceedings.

Carr argued his client “didn’t intentionally obstruct justice” but Wright told Copenhaver Loughry’s actions were “akin to embezzlement by a bank president. His position allowed him to carry it out and hide it.”

The first hour of the hearing focused on the lengthy pre-sentencing report. Loughry objected to at least a dozen findings in the report. Federal prosecutors had a handful of objections.

Loughry walked out the Byrd Federal Courthouse with his attorney. He didn’t say anything.  Carr said, “We have no comment.”

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said the lack of remorse by Loughry may have played a role in the sentence.

“Twenty-four months feels fair to me,” Stuart said.

Stuart said what he wants to state residents to take from the conviction is “the justice system works.”

“A position of such utter responsibility and respect–the idea that you would defy and step against the people of West Virginia in that position. I think it’s appropriate that we depart from that. There ought to be a vigorous, good strong sentence,” Stuart said.

Stuart repeated previous comments on the case that no public corruption is too small.

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 ordered to pay $1,273 in restitution and fined $10,000.

The controversy on state Supreme Court spending began in late 2017. The scandals started with WCHS-TV reports about the office renovation. Loughry, in those television reports, initially blamed fired Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury. One of the items in Loughry’s office was a $32,000 couch.

Menis Ketchum

Loughry went to federal investigators with his concerns, prompting them to dig into Supreme Court finances. He was later indicted. Former Justice Menis Ketchum resigned his seat on the Court and then was named in a federal judge. Ketchum pleaded guilty to a federal wire charge count last August. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27.

The state House of Delegates impeached Loughry, Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Robin Davis and Justice Beth Walker last summer. Davis resigned on the day of her impeachment denying the charges. Only Walker went to trial before the state Senate. She was acquitted on a single impeachment charge. The Senate censured her. Workman never went to trial after a fill-in state Supreme Court ruled the House of Delegates erred in its impeachment process. Loughry resigned after his conviction.

The Court is now made up of Walker, as chief justice, Workman, former House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead, former Congressman Evan Jenkins and longtime Raleigh County Circuit Judge John Hutchison.

In his comments Wednesday, Copenhaver predicted the Supreme Court would rebound with its current make-up of justices.

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