Former W.Va. Judge Gets Prison Time for Corruption

Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry emerges with his lawyer John Carr from the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse after his sentencing in Charleston, W.Va., on Feb. 13, 2019. Conviction in October on 10 federal charges, Loughry was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and a $10,000 fine.

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – A former West Virginia Supreme Court justice convicted of the very corruption he wrote about before taking office was sentenced Wednesday to two years in federal prison.

Before his removal from the chief justice post this time last year, Allen Loughry had served five years on the bench where he oversaw a $353,000 office renovation that included a $32,000 blue suede couch and a $7,500 wood-inlay floor map of West Virginia.

Meanwhile the judge furnished his home with various state-owned property, including a $42,000 Cass Gilbert desk and a green leather couch.

Loughry, 48, resigned in November following a trial where he was found guilty on 11 of 22 counts, including fraud and lying to federal investigators.

In addition to his misappropriation of state furniture, Loughry was convicted of using a state vehicle and state-issued gasoline purchasing card for personal travel.

At his sentencing hearing Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Wright said incarceration was necessary since the damage Loughery did “cannot be measured in dollars and cents.” 

Noting that justice’s stature at the “apex” the state’s legal system, Wright quoted a passage from Loughry’s 2006 book “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia.”

“Of all of the criminal politicians in West Virginia, the group that shatters the confidence of the people the most is a corrupt judiciary,” Loughry wrote. “It is essential that people have the absolute confidence in the integrity and impartiality of our system of justice.”

Along with incarceration, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver ordered Loughry to pay a $10,000 fine and to reimburse the state $1,273.

“I have not seen evidence of remorse,” Copenhaver said.

The granted a motion for probation by defense attorney John Carr so that Loughry can assist his ailing father in Tucker County until he reports to prison on April 5. 

Carr asked that the Bureau of Prisons place him somewhere close to Berkeley Springs in the state’s eastern panhandle.

A hearing before the state Judicial Hearing Board on related ethics charges is scheduled for Feb. 20 in Wayne County. During the sentencing, however, Carr announced Loughry intends to surrender his law license and to never again to run for public office.

Loughry told the court Wednesday that he appreciated the seriousness of his conviction. “I do not wish to minimize or trivialize any of this,” he said. “This situation has changed my life forever.”

Though Loughry had been one of four justices impeached over lavish office renovations in August, a temporary panel of justices ruled the following week that the impeachment efforts violated the separation-of-powers doctrine and that the Legislature lacked jurisdiction to pursue the trials. 

Copenhaver emphasized that Loughry does not bear full responsibility for the Supreme Court’s scandal but that his “conduct has contributed mightily to it.”

Justice Robin Davis retired last summer along with Justice Menis Ketchum, who pleaded guilty to a federal count of felony fraud for his personal use of a state vehicle and gas fuel card. Ketchum faces sentencing later this month.

Both of the judges were replaced by two Republican former lawmakers.

Pending a 2020 special election to fill Loughry’s seat, Republican Gov. Jim Justice appointed a lifelong friend to the bench.

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