Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry has been found guilty on 22 federal charges, including 16 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of witness tampering and three counts of making false statements to a federal agent. He could be sentenced up to 395 years in federal prison and be fined $5.5 million.
According to US Attorney Mike Stuart, the jury rendered its decision on Loughry, confirming that the justice is guilty of many serious federal crimes. He noted that as he said when the former justice was indicted in June, this was not a sad day for the state of West Virginia because the justice system worked and corruption was rooted out.
Political Corruption Firestorm Started in 2017
Loughry was under investigation by the FBI in late 2017, and was indicted on the many federal charges in June. Controversy about the former justice started last year amid many stories about expensive renovations at the state’s Supreme Court. These included a $32,000 couch, a $7,500 inlaid wood floor in Loughry’s office, an office renovation for $500,000 and $28,000 in another justice’s office. There also was a $130,000 renovation in Justice Beth Walker’s chambers.
The Judicial Investigation Commission determined that many emails showed that the former justice was involved in the $360,000 makeover of his office, including the expensive wooden inlaid floor. The emails showed that Loughry submitted a hand drawing that had detailed notes about how he wanted his office to look when the work was done. He placed great emphasis on the floor medallion that cost thousands of dollars.
Reports by WCHS-TV in West Virginia in November 2017 focused on the expensive renovations. In part of the interview of the justice that was television, Loughry clearly lied to the news reporter and the public about how much he was involved in the renovations. He also was found to have lied during a November 15, 2017 interview with a radio station in West Virginia. He then lied again in an op-ed in local paper, and also to Delegate Eric Householder in a state House Finance meeting, according to the Judicial Investigation Commission.
Controversy then began over Loughry’s possession in his house of an antique desk that was associated with a famous architect named Cass Gilbert from when the West Virginia state Capitol was first constructed. He took it home in 2012 when he was still working as a law clerk. Some of the federal charges he was convicted on related to this action. According to the list of charges against him, state statutes did not have a provision for an employee of the state to take home a commodity that is not being used by the state, simply on the whim of the individual.
Loughry also was convicted for taking home a leather couch that belonged to another justice. The Judicial Investigation Commission found that the couch should have been designated as unclaimed property.
He also was punished for lying to the Supreme Court’s spokesperson about a practice that allowed supreme court justices in West Virginia to set up a home office. Actually, the policy of the court only relates to computer equipment. Loughry had Supreme Court computer equipment set up at his house, and this was illegal as well. He had two PCs and a laptop that belonged to the state. One of the PCs was used for putting his family photographs on them, and playing games.
A legislative audit in 2017 found that both Loughry and Justice Menis Ketchum also drove state vehicles for their personal use without claiming the use as a taxable fringe benefit.
The Judicial Investigation Commission also noted that he hid from other justices that he had been issued a federal subpoena at the end of December 2017.
Loughry is a 47 year old Tucker County, West Virginia native. He began serving as chief justice in 2017. He was supposed to serve for four years, but the other justices voted him out at the beginning of 2017 because of controversy over spending at the Supreme Court. For most of the 10 years before he was elected to the Supreme Court, Loughry was a law clerk for justices, including Chief Justice Margaret Workman.
Workman Facing Her Own Legal Troubles
About the same time that Loughry was convicted on federal charges, Workman was in the process of being impeached by the West Virginia Senate. The impeachment trial has been paused for now because a judge that was to preside over the proceedings did not show up.
Workman, Loughry and two other justices were impeached by the House in August because of the lavish spending on office renovations. Those acts eventually led to accusations against the justices of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty.
One of the unusual features of this entire corruption case is that it involves all of the justices on the state’s supreme court. After the House of Delegates impeached the entire state Supreme Court, Workman sued the legislature, and the case was then sent to the Supreme Court.