West Virginia Supreme Court justice indicted on 22 charges
Suspended West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry has been indicted.
U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said at a news conference in Charleston Wednesday that Loughry has been indicted on 22 charges, with 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.
If convicted of all the charges, Loughry faces a sentence of up to 395 years, a fine of up to $5.5 million and supervised release period of three years.
"A federal grand jury has charged a justice on the state's high court with numerous and serious federal crimes," Stuart said. "It's a solemn day for West Virginia and for all West Virginians. On this day - West Virginia Day - the people of our state deserve better. They've worked too hard and too long to tolerate misconduct that strikes at the heart of the public's trust of elected officials."
Stuart said Loughry was arrested about 7 a.m. by the FBI. He was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond. Loughry's next court appearance is 2 p.m. June 22.
After he left U.S. Magistrate Court, where he made his initial appearance, Loughry had no comment on the indictment and the 22 charges he faces. He stared straight ahead as his attorney said no comment several times when asked questions by reporters who gathered outside.
Below is a copy of the indictment against Loughry:
When asked whether there could be more indictments, Stuart said there always could be more indictments, but regarding any more possible indictments at the Supreme Court he said "no comment."
Watch the news conference in the media player below:
Meanwhile, West Virginia Senate and House Democratic leaders renewed their call Wednesday for immediate legislative action on Loughry, calling for impeachment proceedings.
“The announcement today of the federal indictment of Supreme Court Justice Loughry is not surprising,” House of Delegates Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said in a news release. “The governor and Republican leadership must take immediate action, and I am hoping that perhaps today’s news will prompt them to finally initiate an impeachment proceeding. Continued delay reflects tacit indifference to his behavior.”
On June 8, Loughry was suspended without pay by the court while his disciplinary proceedings play out.
In the Supreme Court's suspension order, it says in part that "there is probable cause to believe that the respondent has engaged or is currently engaging in serious violations of the code of judicial conduct."
The court also requested suspension of Loughry's license to practice law in West Virginia during the judicial disciplinary proceedings.
The Judicial Investigation Commission filed 32 charges against Loughry on June 6 and recommended he be suspended without pay while the disciplinary proceedings against him move forward. On June 8, the court ordered Loughry be suspended.
Loughry is accused of several violations of the state judicial code, including lying to Eyewitness News Reporter Kennie Bass during an interview. Bass first broke the story of extravagant Supreme Court spending last November, which included Loughry selecting a $32,000 couch for his office.
Loughry denied involvement in the remodeling of his office and blamed former court administrator Steve Canterbury for the expensive purchases. The JIC determined that was not true.
The complaint said Loughry kept secret a December federal subpoena served on the Supreme Court. Loughry was replaced as chief justice in February after the justices received another subpoena and found out about the first one.
"The commission finds that there is probable cause to believe that Justice Loughry engaged in a pattern of lying and using his public office for private gain," the complaint said.
An administrative order filed at the Supreme Court indicated that all five justices - Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Robin Davis, Menis Ketchum, Loughry and Elizabeth Walker - have voluntarily recused themselves from participating in the case involving Loughry. The order also names Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit to serve as acting chief justice in the case and directs her to appoint four other acting justices to preside with her.
Loughry has been embroiled in controversy along with the other justices over questionable Supreme Court spending – revealed in an Eyewitness News iTeam investigative story – that showed a $900,000 renovation project ballooned to more than $3.7 million.
The total cost for the work in Loughry’s office was just more than $363,000, but that included some major expenditures for office furniture. Namely, the sectional sofa with a price tag of nearly $32,000, complete with $1,700 in throw pillows.
Loughry maintained he did nothing wrong and only had limited involvement in the work plans, and he pointed at former court administrator Steve Canterbury as being in charge of making the decisions on renovations. Canterbury, however, said Loughry was intricately involved.
A drawing made by Loughry himself, however, was obtained by the iTeam. It showed a $7,500 wood medallion in the floor of his office and outlines the floor plan for his office with detailed notes from Loughry about what he wanted and where he wanted it.
News of the Supreme Court expenditures created a firestorm in the West Virginia Legislature with several lawmakers calling for an investigation of Loughry and possibly impeachment proceedings.
After much of the controversy surfaced, the justices voted to replace Loughry as chief justice and make Justice Margaret Workman the chief justice.
Meanwhile, Loughry also was lambasted in a state audit, spurred by Eyewitness News iTeam investigative stories, about how Loughry used vehicles, including rental cars when he traveled for conferences. The audit found he used the vehicles for personal use because of the mileage he drove.
A calendar from the legislative auditor’s report showing Loughry’s state vehicle use indicated he failed to provide a destination or a description or a need for the vehicle.
Loughry issued a letter saying he disagrees with the audit's findings, which include a section that says he was wrong to take home a historic Cass Gilbert desk from the Capitol and not report it as a benefit. That desk has been appraised at $42,000.
Records obtained by the iTeam later showed that more than $2,400 was spent for two occasions to have furniture moved from Loughry’s chambers to the state warehouse. However, that total includes the cost of moving the Cass Gilbert desk and a sofa that was removed from Loughry’s office. Both of those items were taken to his house. Loughry contends he was setting up a home office as allowed by court policy. However, the court has no written policy on home offices. Loughry ordered a new desk and a new $32,000 couch for his chambers when he took office in January 2013.
In 2012, Loughry was elected to a 12-year term on the Supreme Court and served as chief justice in 2017. The court voted to replace Loughry as chief justice in February 2018.
A native of Tucker County, he obtained law degrees from American University, Washington College of Law, the University of London and Capital University School of law.